82. Briefing Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Vest) to the Deputy Secretary of State (Christopher)1
- Cyprus Intercommunal Talks: End of Round Assessment
SUMMARY: The second sequence of four intercommunal meetings has brought slight substantive progress but also some deterioration of the negotiating atmosphere as traditional animosities flared at the final meeting dealing with the most controversial issue—territory.2 Despite this, we believe a basic goal—institutionalization of the talks—is virtually achieved. The prospect of movement toward rapid solution of the Cyprus problem, however, remains highly remote and [Page 272] progress on the issues that divide the communities is likely to be painstakingly slow.
DISCUSSION: The second sequence of substantive discussion on the four basic topics of the Cyprus intercommunal ended on November 12. Meetings were held on October 15 and 31 (skipping a week for Muslim religious holidays and Turkish National Day) and November 5 and 12. They have and will continue to address the agreed topics in rotation (Varosha, “practical measures”, constitutional issues and territory) at meetings approximately once weekly.
Both sides continued to develop their positions moving slightly beyond opening proposals on Varosha and “practical measures”. In discussing Varosha, the Turkish Cypriots proposed that an undefined portion of the city be demilitarized and jointly administered by Greek and Turkish Cypriots and UN officials. No limit was placed on the numbers of Greek Cypriots permitted to return to the area. A key element of this proposal, for which the Greek Cypriot negotiator pressed in vain, is to define the extent of the proposed area.
Regarding “practical measures”, the Greek Cypriots responded positively on minor Turkish Cypriot requests for outstanding social security payments and cooperation in the health field, but objected to other Turkish Cypriot proposals on passports and elimination of the economic embargo as implying Greek Cypriot recognition of the “TFSC”. The Turkish Cypriot negotiator promised to cooperate with Greek Cypriot requests for documents (land records, bank books, birth certificates) left in the north since 1974.
The meetings on constitutional and territorial issues were still more difficult. The Greek Cypriots for example pressed for Turkish Cypriot positions on territory, claiming that without precise boundaries a new federal constitution could not be formulated. Following a protracted, indecisive session on the constitution, SRSG Gobbi concluded that the only point of agreement by the parties was that Cyprus should be a federal republic and that fundamental rights and liberties should be guaranteed. The session on territory was likewise unproductive with the Greek Cypriots urging the Turkish Cypriots to present a specific map of their territorial requirements and view Cyprus as an integrated economic unit. The Turkish Cypriot negotiator, however, flatly rejected the concept of an integrated economic community.
The negotiating atmosphere remained reasonably good with both sides seriously presenting their positions and exploring each other’s proposals. Apparently, the Greek Cypriot negotiator (Ioannides) is demonstrating considerable forebearance at the negotiating table, a [Page 273] characteristic particularly evident during the final meeting on “territory” when the Turkish Cypriot bluntly and emotionally rejected an extensive presentation directed at considering Cyprus as an integrated economic unit. Ioannides, however, made a conciliatory response.
Politicization of the talks was accentuated by the publicity surrounding SYG Waldheim’s invitation to Rolandis and Atakol to meet in NYC in mid-November. Although the proposal was subsequently rejected, the style of the GOC rejection exposed it to both internal criticism from Famagusta refugees and the Turkish Cypriots. Each side also resorted to public posturing on the territorial issue with Denktash stating that a specific village (located in a salient extending into the GOC-controlled area) would not be returned, a position totally unacceptable to the Greek Cypriots. For his part, Kyprianou asserted that all refugees would be able to return to their homes. Still the level of rhetoric has remained within bounds and tempers are still under control.
The conclusion of the first two rounds suggests that the initial goal—institutionalization of the talks—has been reached. The third round scheduled to end in mid-December should reinforce this conclusion but without substantive progress. Thus while there has been no breakthrough, neither has there been any breakdown. We can expect the talks to continue at least for the immediate future and consequently there is breathing room for further discussion, presentation of proposals, and ultimately of compromise.
Several events are on the horizon:
—the ultimate GOC position on a UNGA debate of the Cyprus issue is still undetermined. Although Cyprus is on the UNGA agenda, no time for debate has been formally scheduled and the GOC is attempting to use the prospect of avoiding debate and putting the item off until 1981 as a lever to induce Turkish Cypriot flexibility in the intercommunal talks.
—meetings between high ranking Greek and Turkish Cypriots and SYG Waldheim remain possible. The Security Council will meet in mid-December for a routine six-month renewal of UNFICYP’s mandate. It is likely that Waldheim would meet separately with the ranking GOG and Turkish Cypriot representatives and such meetings, if held, could be mildly productive. If the third round is unproductive, however, UN Secretariat officials may be tempted to roll out personal proposals even if the negotiating scene is not yet ready for them.
The fundamental fact that the parties are far apart in substance continues to pertain. A Turkish official recently commented that the negotiations could take two years to end, and this appears optimistic to many observers.