84. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The Turkish-US Security Relationship and Cyprus


  • US

    • The Secretary-designate
    • Mr. Christopher
    • Arthur A. Hartman, Assistant Secretary, EUR
    • Nelson C. Ledsky, Director, EUR/SE
  • Turkey

    • Ambassador Esenbel


Ambassador Esenbel complained about the January 19 Departmental statement, which asked Congress to withhold immediate consideration of the US-Turkish Defense Cooperation Agreement.2 Mr. Vance defended the statement, saying it was the only means to stave off Congressional statements opposing the US-Turkish security relationship. Mr. Vance added that the US intended to complete its policy review of the Eastern Mediterranean in the near future, and then would strive to rebuild Turkish-US friendship. Ambassador Esenbel explained the latest Turkish initiative on Cyprus by asserting that Ankara had virtually forced Denktash to write Makarios, and propose a meeting which Turkey hoped would lead to detailed discussions of substantive issues required for a negotiated Cyprus settlement. Mr. [Page 277] Vance said the US welcomed meetings between Makarios and Denktash, and hoped they would lead to early progress.

A. US-Turkish Defense Relationship

Ambassador Esenbel opened the meeting by recalling his conversation with Mr. Vance this summer, and handing the Secretary-designate a congratulatory letter from the Turkish Foreign Minister.3 Mr. Vance read the message and said he would write a personal reply.

Ambassador Esenbel then made a lengthy presentation about the importance of the US-Turkish Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA). The document, in his view, aimed at correcting the imbalance in Turkish-American relations created by Congressional action in late 1974. It was the tool by which the two countries could renew and revitalize close political and security relations. Esenbel recalled the damage done to these relations over the past two years and said now was the time to begin moving in a new direction.

Turkey, asserted Esenbel, had been very patient. It had appreciated that little could be done preceding the US elections and had accordingly waited quietly for more than ten months. Now it appeared a further delay would be required, but Esenbel warned that Turkish patience could not last indefinitely. There would soon be national elections, and there was already heavy internal criticism of the Turkish Government from both left and right. Failure of the US Congress to approve the DCA would feed this opposition and strengthen those in Turkey who believed the US was no longer a credible or reliable ally.

On the other hand, approval of the US-Turkish Agreement would bring benefits to both sides. It would eliminate the remaining restrictions on Turkish arms purchases in the US. It would enable US bases in Turkey to begin functioning again. It would strengthen the Turkish Government in defending close US-Turkish ties and help put those ties on a stronger, stabler basis. In Alliance terms, it would mean that Turkey’s contribution to NATO force levels could be maintained and strengthened.

Esenbel said he could not disguise his Government’s concern at the statement issued by the State Department on Wednesday.4 This concern had already been registered by the Turkish Prime Minister and Foreign Minister directly to Ambassador Macomber. The US statement, moreover, had already begun to be exploited by the Greek press.

Esenbel said he did not understand why the Ford Administration decided to send the US-Turkish Agreement to Congress at the last mo[Page 278]ment. At the same time, it was unclear to him why the new Administration felt so apprehensive about having this step taken. Turkey never expected immediate Congressional approval of the DCA, and it fully understood that the new Administration would want initially to review its policies in the area. For this reason, the statement issued on Wednesday seemed so unnecessary. What was most worrisome was the extent to which the statement reflected the new Administration’s felt need to placate the Greek lobby in Congress.

Esenbel concluded his presentation by noting that Turks are a frank people who state their views directly. It was the Turkish position that the US-Turkish DCA must stand on its own merits and cannot be linked to other subjects. Indeed, the very genesis of the Agreement was a desire by both countries to separate the defense relationship from other problems in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Mr. Vance said he would like to respond frankly to Ambassador Esenbel’s comments. The new Administration felt deeply about the need to maintain and strengthen the friendship between Turkey and the US. It, too, wished to repair the damage which had been caused in past years.

What occurred on Wednesday could be explained very simply. The US was in a transition process, and the incoming Administration needed to review the complex of issues involving Greece, Turkey and Cyprus. It had informed Congress some weeks ago that this study would be undertaken, and it was not yet complete.

The new Administration also believes that if the Turkish-US Agreement is to get through Congress, considerable spadework on the Hill will be required. There are many in Congress who feel strongly about Cyprus and who have translated that concern into a deep interest in all issues involving Greece and Turkey. The new Administration has not yet had a chance to do the Congressional missionary work which it feels must be done, and for this reason asked Dr. Kissinger to withhold transmitting the DCA to the Congress. The request was made to give the incoming Administration time to do its own spadework and then present the issue in a way which gives no one an excuse to dig themselves in in opposition. Unfortunately, the Agreement went forward. Mr. Vance said he thought this was simply a mistake, but within hours, the damage that he feared would occur started to take shape. Congressmen began calling to say they would have to come out publicly in opposition to the DCA if the State Department remained silent. It was in an effort to forestall such statements—and Mr. Vance noted that none were made—that the new Administration felt it had to issue the statement it did.

Mr. Vance said he understood the Turkish position, and pledged that the new Administration would work as rapidly as possible to com[Page 279]plete the required internal study and then would constructively try to move forward to restore the US relationship with Turkey.

Ambassador Esenbel said he had no doubt in his own mind that the new Administration was sincere in wanting to restore US-Turkish relations. He could even understand why some statement had to be issued on Wednesday. What he could not comprehend was why the statement had to link the DCA with a review of “other related issues.” Such linkage was bound to create internal problems in Turkey, make matters more difficult for the Demirel Government and prevent flexibility on the issue of Cyprus. Mr. Vance replied that only the statement issued on Wednesday, with the language it contained, could have made it possible to stave off Congressional statements in opposition to the DCA.

B. Cyprus

There followed a brief review of the economic and political situation in Turkey, with Esenbel indicating that national elections were still most likely to occur in October. The conversation then passed to Cyprus. Mr. Vance said he hoped all the parties to the Cyprus dispute could find a way to move the situation toward an equitable solution. He said he was happy to see that Turkish Cypriot leader Denktash had taken the initiative in proposing a meeting with Makarios and hoped that the meeting would take place and serve as a basis for additional talks between the two Cypriot leaders.

Ambassador Esenbel said that the Denktash letter, a copy of which he handed to Mr. Vance, represented an initiative which had the strong backing of Ankara.5 Indeed, the Turkish Government had virtually forced Denktash to send the letter, and insisted he attend the meeting on January 27 (even though Denktash claimed it was his birthday). Ankara had also forced Denktash not to make an issue of venue, but to meet wherever Makarios proposed. (The meeting would take place at UN headquarters near Nicosia airport.)6

The Turkish Government hoped Denktash and Makarios could use their meeting to agree on guidelines for future negotiations, one of which would have to be that substantive issues could only be discussed in committees or subcommittees. The first such committee could deal [Page 280] with the question of the future constitution of Cyprus, and could consider which powers would be delegated to the two state regimes under a bizonal federation and which would be retained by the federation itself. Once agreement on these points was reached, it would then be possible to consider some of Makarios’ special ideas, such as how to assure freedom of movement. In all these discussions, Esenbel said, it would have to be recognized that the clock could not be turned back to July 1974. No one should expect complete freedom of travel or residence.

Esenbel said that if things went this far, the territorial issue could then be discussed in a separate committee or subcommittee on the basis of the Brussels Agreement of 1975.7 All that required negotiation was the line of demarcation between the two zones. There could be no discussion based on percentages or attempts to move back a preconceived number of refugees. Each side could produce a map, from which a general discussion could proceed. Esenbel thought it to be essential that the Greeks present a map first, and be prepared to defend why they had placed the lines where they had. The Turks could then produce a map containing a counter proposal, and the give-and-take might eventually produce an agreed line.

Esenbel said that it was essential that these talks, once started, be kept absolutely confidential. He also thought it likely that at the first meeting, Denktash would again bring forward a proposal for some form of provisional government which would operate until a final settlement could be reached. If this were not acceptable to Makarios, and Esenbel observed that nothing along these lines had been thus far, Denktash would then ask Makarios for a gentleman’s agreement that while negotiations proceeded, the Greeks would cease their propaganda efforts against Turkey in international fora. Esenbel expressed doubt as to whether Makarios would find this acceptable, but said Turkey wanted Denktash to probe the Greek Cypriots on all these points.

The meeting ended with a brief discussion of US planning with respect to the Cyprus issue. In response to Esenbel’s questions, Mr. Vance said he planned no trip to Greece or Cyprus in connection with his forthcoming swing through the Middle East. As for the possibility of sending an envoy to the area, Mr. Vance acknowledged that this was something he was thinking about but had not yet reached a final decision on. Mr. Vance statement.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P770033–1449. Confidential; Limdis. Drafted by Ledsky; approved by Twaddell on February 22. The meeting took place in Vance’s office.
  2. The statement, relayed in telegram 13345 to Ankara, January 20, reads as follows: “President Ford sent the Defense Cooperation Agreement with Turkey to the Congress without consulting the new administration. We had previously been informed that the agreement would not be sent forward, since we had initiated a full review of the related foreign policy issues which would not be completed until after the change in administrations. We hope that no action will be taken by the Congress until this review is completed.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770020–0868) Ford sent the Defense Cooperation Agreement to Congress on January 18; for the text of his transmittal letter, see Public Papers: Ford, 1976–77, Book III, p. 2961. An explication of U.S. policy regarding the DCA during the Ford administration is in the Department of State Bulletin, October 4, 1976, pp. 424–428. See also Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XXX, Greece; Cyprus; Turkey, 1973–1976, Documents 231, 234, and 247.
  3. Not found.
  4. January 19.
  5. Not found. In telegram 139 from Nicosia, January 15, the Embassy noted that Denktash’s letters to UN Secretary General Waldheim and Archbishop Makarios were designed to “seize diplomatic initiative” toward securing a negotiated settlement to the Cyprus dispute. The Embassy projected that Makarios would be hesitant to become drawn into negotiations, given the brief and unsuccessful history of past proposals. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770016–0321)
  6. Denktash and Makarios met on January 27 and February 6. See footnote 5, Document 31.
  7. Reference is to the agreement reached between Greece and Turkey in Brussels on May 31, 1975, that problems between the two countries would be resolved by negotiations and that the issue of the delimitation of the continental shelf of the Aegean would be resolved by the International Court of Justice.