9. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Report by Clark Clifford on his Mission to the Eastern Mediterranean


  • The Secretary
  • Mr. Clark M. Clifford
  • Mr. Philip Habib, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
  • Mr. Matthew Nimetz, Counselor-designate of the Department
  • Mr. James G. Lowenstein, Deputy Assistant Secretary, EUR
  • Mr. Nelson C. Ledsky, Director, Office of Southern European Affairs, EUR
  • Mr. Robert F. Hopper, Special Assistant to the Counselor-designate (Notetaker)

The Secretary thanked Clark Clifford for the outstanding job he had done on a difficult task. Secretary Clifford then summarized the fourteen-day mission. He noted that it had been an extraordinarily interesting experience. Lessons were learned on this mission that his instincts lead him to conclude will be useful in the future. He thanked the Secretary for the innovative, experienced and smooth team which he had been provided. He then handed Secretary Vance a copy of the report which he was submitting to the President.2 He thought the Secretary would be pleased to learn that there was general jubilation in the area over the election of President Carter and particularly concerning Mr. Vance’s appointment as Secretary of State.

Clifford’s principal conclusion is that the Greek and Turkish Cypriots will never reach agreement if left to themselves. There is too great a past history of recriminations and mutual savagery. To negotiate within a framework of hundreds of years of bitterness and suspicion is, of course, exceedingly difficult.

Clifford reported his team’s conclusion that progress on Cyprus necessitated effective leverage on Denktash, and the Turkish Cypriots. This leverage had to come from Turkey. Therefore, the Ankara stop was perhaps the most critical one of the entire mission. The first full day in Ankara was spent building personal relationships. Once these were built the firm and clear message was delivered that a US-Turkish DCA could not be enacted without constructive and active help by the [Page 44] Turkish Government in regard to Cyprus. The Turks were informed that this was not due to the “Greek lobby” but rather reflected a general Congressional attitude shared by its senior leadership. The Turks were told that they were of course sovereign and independent and could do as they liked, but if they wanted a DCA they would have to act as the Administration’s active partner in the Eastern Mediterranean while trusting the Government to be Turkey’s partner in Washington. This idea appeared to have some appeal.

It should not be overlooked, Clifford added, that the Turks are still embittered by what they perceive as an unfair and humiliating embargo. They also suffer from a national inferiority complex and feel isolated and unappreciated. At the end of the Clifford visit, however, they were reasonably assured that the Clifford team was Turkey’s sincere friend, but also understood that Turkish efforts on Cyprus would be required if the US-Turkish relationship was to be restored and improved.

Clifford reported that at the last hour of the last meeting on the last day in Ankara the Turkish Foreign Minister said his Government had given intensive thought to Clifford’s presentation and would instruct the Turkish Cypriots to make a concrete constitutional proposal in the next round of intercommunal talks. The Foreign Minister stressed that he desired a reciprocal commitment from Makarios to put forward an equally concrete territorial proposal. The Turks made clear their potential embarrassment if they were the only side to make a concrete offer. They were given no commitment by Clifford though he undertook to persuade Makarios of the merit of presenting a territorial proposal. The Turks agreed that ultimately their offer was not conditioned upon a proposal from the Greek Cypriots. Clifford then called to the Secretary’s attention some interesting intelligence reports concerning this matter.3

In Nicosia, Clifford had two long visits with Archbishop Makarios. The first opened with a long discussion of each other’s personal background and formal matters. The discussion then turned to the Cyprus problem and Clifford described the Turkish proposal indicating that the time had come for an equal contribution from the Greek Cypriots. Clifford asked Makarios to think about the fact that the deep interest displayed by the Government and Congress of the United States for a Cyprus solution could well be a diminishing asset. Clifford suggested that Makarios move quickly. The United States over the last thirty years had invested a great deal in NATO and in NATO’s southern flank—Greece and Turkey. This investment was important and when ultimately weighed against American interests in Cyprus would eventu [Page 45] ally be overriding. 1977 represented the best year for a favorable solution since it is possible that by 1978 the United States could not risk further endangering NATO.

Clifford then described the Archbishop’s three options: (1) negotiate now while friends were interested; (2) negotiate later alone; and (3) the worst alternative, failure to negotiate and being left with a divided island secured by Turkish troops. Clifford described his farewell with Makarios after this meeting as having been formally warm and in fact cool to the point where he doubted the Archbishop would desire to hold a second meeting.

The same evening Clifford delivered a similar message to the Greek Ambassador to Cyprus who displayed a good deal of concern.4

Makarios renewed the tentatively set farewell meeting planned for the next day. The meeting lasted for over an hour and Clifford said the message from the previous meeting had the desired impact. Makarios committed himself to putting a map on the table in Vienna. This map is to accept the principle of bi-zonality and form the basis for serious territorial negotiations.

The Archbishop evidenced a concern that the Turkish constitutional proposal would be a charade. Clifford assured him that the Turkish Foreign Minister clearly understood the need for a serious Turkish Cypriot constitutional proposal which would provide a reasonable basis for negotiations. Clifford described the Archbishop’s complaint about dividing Cyprus into two local governments. Makarios expressed his concern about such federal arrangements. Clifford responded that the United States had no problem whatsoever with such a solution since we had made a federal government work for over two hundred years.

Clifford believes that the trouble with the intercommunal negotiations to date is that there had been interminable talk but nothing concrete on the table. He noted that the mission had been very discreet in expressions of optimism until it had received the two firm commitments. Then the mission consciously decided to speak out in a more optimistic tone and to indicate that a solution in 1977 was now possible.5 This was judged the best way to continue pressure upon Denktash and Makarios to actually put forward serious proposals on March 31.

Clifford recommended that this stress be maintained and that the Secretary and the President express some public gratification that [Page 46] the parties now apparently realize the time has come for serious negotiations.

Clifford then reported on the good talks he had in London with Foreign Secretary Owen and his team. The British were given a full report.6 At lunch Owen took Clifford aside and for twenty minutes discussed the two British Sovereign Base Areas. Owen indicated he would raise this issue with the President and the Secretary during his March visit to Washington. Clifford offered his opinion that these bases, which are actually British sovereign soil, are important and should be maintained. He noted that their 99 square miles and 2,000 British military cost the British £36 million a year. Owen was fishing for some encouragement that the United States could help them meet this expense. Clifford said he gave him none beyond acknowledging that the bases are important. Clifford then said the British would seek a clear indication of the new Administration’s attitude toward the bases. Clifford understands that there was an agreement the UK would give the United States five years’ advance notice before abandoning either of the SBA’s. (Notetaker comment: this came from General Allen of NSA in a meeting with Clifford on February 26, 1977.) Clifford thought Owen might ask for money but that he would not at this point raise British abandonment of the bases.

Clifford then explained the approach he and his team had taken toward our bases in Turkey. There had been a conscious decision to not mention them at all. Clifford said he repeatedly listed a number of issues of concern between the United States and Turkey, never including the bases. This so worried the Turks that Demirel finally asked Clifford about “our very valuable bases.” Clifford replied that in our relationship there are many other important issues and that for the time being we were making other arrangements. Clifford assured Secretary Vance and the others of his realization that the bases are valuable and that we ultimately want them open, but that for now the relationship between Turkey and the United States is best served if the Turks concentrated on other things, i.e., Cyprus.

Clifford then turned to the Aegean. He had been startled at the vehemence of Caramanlis’ assertions that Turkish policy had now entered a new expansionist phase and that grave danger lies ahead. This emotion coming from the impressive and moderate Caramanlis had been noteworthy. Caramanlis took over an hour to describe the several Aegean disputes. In summary there are five: (1) delimitation of the continental shelf (Clifford explained how absurd the Turks find the Greek theory which, based upon their many Aegean islands, effectively [Page 47] denies to Turkey any continental shelf); (2) air space; (3) territorial waters; (4) Greek fortification of the Dodecanese and other islands (which Greece claims is purely defensive and the Turks find a clear treaty violation); and (5) the Turkish amphibian force on the Aegean (which was the most worrisome for Caramanlis).

After giving the Greek explanation for each of these issues, Caramanlis explained to Clifford that he and the Greek people had already suffered two humiliations at the hands of the Turks. These were the second invasion of Cyprus and last summer’s sailings of the SISMIK into disputed Aegean waters.7 Caramanlis claimed he had been exceedingly moderate in both cases but could not guarantee continued moderation if provoked again. He also claimed that he had tried to negotiate these issues but had not been met with serious Turkish responses.

Clifford said he took great pains to explain this Greek attitude to the Turks. During the second day in Ankara, the Turks spent two and a half hours stoutly defending themselves against the Greek charges. On some of the issues their case has merit and on others it does not. In any event, Turkey has now learned, from us, of the severity of present Greek views and of American concern that any conflict between the two would be a grave event indeed. Turkey now knows the United States would react negatively toward any provocations and that the arms flow to both sides would be cut off in the event of hostilities. Clifford concluded that individually the Aegean issues seem amenable to technical solution. He recommended the United States Government conduct a serious study of these issues and how they might be resolved. Finally, he judged this three-sided exchange of views valuable in that Greece and Turkey are aware that the United States expects them to act in a cautious and responsible manner.

Secretary Vance asked Clifford if Ecevit was on board regarding the substantive constitutional proposal. Clifford answered that in each country he had met with opposition leaders, with the knowledge of the government. He had held a long visit with Ecevit who seemed very intelligent and argued strongly for a Cyprus solution. On the other hand, Prime Minister Demirel expressed to Clifford his fear that Ecevit is really waiting in the wings to accuse Demirel of caving in to United States pressures on Cyprus. Demirel offered up his weak governing coalition and the imminence of elections as excuses for an inability to act. Clifford told him that the time had come for action and that his internal problems could not be accepted as impediments to a Cyprus solution.

Habib then asked if Demirel wasn’t really more afraid of his coalition partner Erbakan. Clifford responded that coalition problems must [Page 48] have been seriously considered before the Turkish Government decided to instruct Denktash on the constitutional proposal. Mr. Nimetz then added that he did not think Erbakan would torpedo the constitutional proposal, but that a final solution would probably have to come after the Turkish election.

Secretary Vance asked if Clifford thought Ecevit would sabotage it. Clifford said Ecevit eloquently asserted the time had come for a solution. He was probably not aware of the specific proposal but he probably will not oppose it. Nimetz reminded the group that Ecevit on the other hand is a hardliner on the Aegean. Secretary Vance told of Ecevit’s comment to him four months ago that he would settle for a percentage of the oil in the Aegean, but felt the sovereignty problems would be much more difficult to resolve.

Nimetz also reminded the group that since Athens had been the mission’s first stop, it had not been possible to report back to them on Turkish thinking. Moreover, the Greeks were not flexible at all on the Aegean issues. Therefore, it was clear that some time soon we would need to get back to them.

Secretary Vance asked if Denktash was prepared to follow Ankara’s direction regarding Cyprus or would he find a way to drag his feet. Clifford thought Denktash had no alternatives. His talk with Denktash had been very difficult and Denktash was almost personally offensive, but this was understandable. He was upset at recent instructions he had received from Ankara to push the concrete proposal. At the end of the meeting Denktash grudgingly indicated he would do as he was instructed and that the time had come for all Cypriots to agree on a solution. He reiterated, however, his resentment of United States involvement and his belief that whenever an American visits Cyprus, it always strengthens Makarios. Clifford said this long, rather negative talk helped Denktash work off some steam so that in a major press conference afterward he seemed mollified, and made helpful statements.

Secretary Vance said he felt Denktash would not be totally intransigent. Clifford agreed Denktash had to be responsive since economic and military realities made him a servant of Ankara. Moreover, the Turkish area of Cyprus had appeared to Clifford strikingly poorer than the Greek section. The Turkish area was feeling economic pressure and the Turkish Cypriots and Turkey may have decided it was time to settle.

Secretary Vance then asked if the Archbishop had really committed himself to a bi-zonal solution. Clifford said he thought so and described the map Makarios had shown him which had included a Turkish zone which was very small but was clearly bi-zonal. Clifford concluded that he had asked the Archbishop if he now accepted bi-zonality and the answer was yes. Nimetz stated that he and Mr. [Page 49] Ledsky had also pressed the Cypriot Foreign Minister at a separate meeting who clearly understood and accepted the necessity for proposing a bi-zonal system with a dividing line providing the Turks with at least twenty percent of the Republic.8

Habib then asked if the Greek Cypriots would also submit a paper on the new constitution. Clifford said no. Both sides will be content if each puts forward one proposal and then responds to the proposal of the other. Ledsky advised that this was necessary since Erbakan would not permit a Turkish territorial proposal. Nimetz reported that in both Ankara and Nicosia the need for sustained and non-interrupted negotiations had been stressed.

The Secretary and Habib then asked what the role for the UN would be. Clifford described his meeting with Waldheim in which he had reassured the latter that the United States and the Clifford mission would support and complement UN efforts. Waldheim was receptive to the offer of assistance and found especially attractive the idea that at appropriate times suggestions for breaking any stalemates would be passed to him. Clifford concluded that in spite of past failures Waldheim and the UN do have a role to play and that at some time someone, perhaps Waldheim, will have to describe a reasonable settlement to the parties and then make them accept it. Habib wondered whether that party would not, in fact, have to be the United States. The Secretary replied that while the United States might have to provide the final impetus for a solution, such a push would best come under the umbrella of the United Nations.

Clifford then raised the problem of the European Communities’ role. At one point he had felt the EC could usefully put forth a map but he now strongly doubted they could take a visible, active role. The Turkish Foreign Minister, in the strongest terms, had urged we not seek EC involvement. The reason he gave was Soviet nervousness. Interestingly, in Nicosia the Archbishop had also welcomed a US role but again cautioned against EC initiatives. Clifford joined the Secretary in concluding that the UN is best positioned to play a decisive role with US support and encouragement. A US role will be required, however, since Waldheim has little leverage.

Secretary Vance then picked up his copy of Clifford’s report and promised to send it immediately to the President. He then turned to the Congressional question pointing out that they are very interested and that dealing with them will require great care. An approach must be designed to treat the informational and policy elements of the problem.

[Page 50]

Secretary Vance then asked where we stood on the Greek DCA. Clifford outlined the status of the stalled talks and reported on his specific request to Caramanlis to reopen them. At the last official event in Athens, Greek Foreign Minister Bitsios told Clifford he had been instructed by the Prime Minister to select a team and resume negotiations in mid-March. Habib then asked Clifford if he felt a US team should be created or if the Ambassador and DCM should continue to direct the effort. It was agreed that this should be dealt with later.

Secretary Vance then reported on his conversation with Senator Sarbanes earlier in the week. The Senator told him he had heard the State Department would recommend movement on both DCA’s.9 He added he would have trouble with the total amount of assistance to Turkey over the four-year span which he felt was out of proportion to their contribution toward Cyprus progress. He asked the Secretary to scale down the size of Turkish aid. Clifford stated that the Senator had not been accurately informed and did not clearly understand the mission’s goals. Clifford said the recommendation in his report is that the President generally endorse the Turkish DCA in principle but not move to finalize it. To encourage continued Turkish cooperation, however, he would recommend $175 million in military assistance for Turkey in FY 1978. The $50 million increase over 1977 would be a reward for their cooperation. The difference between the FY 1978 proposal and a full four-year $1 billion DCA would remain as a carrot to induce further cooperation. The Secretary asked if the Turks understood this. Clifford explained that it had not been bluntly communicated to them since it required a decision by the Secretary and the President.

Habib feared the Turks would claim that they could do no more until they got the whole DCA. Clifford said this had been the unhappy stalemate in the past, but that the Turks now seemed to accept the idea of an active partnership between Turkey and the United States to resolve the Cyprus dispute and its relationship to defense cooperation. The Secretary stated he had just read a message which indicated that the Turks understood and accepted this.10

Mr. Ledsky gave his opinion that in spite of the Greek acceptance of a resumption of negotiations they will drag their feet until they are sure whether the new Administration will support the Turkish DCA or not. Nimetz also pointed out that the Greeks had attempted to add progress on the Aegean to progress on Cyprus as conditions which should be linked to the DCA.

[Page 51]

Clifford then informed the Secretary that the House International Relations Committee wanted him to testify at 9:00 a.m. on March 9.11 The Secretary said he definitely thought Clifford should appear, but that he should provide them with details only in closed session. He thought it should be possible to work out something with Chairman Zablocki and that Clifford should also talk with Senator Sparkman. Clifford agreed it would be wise to reserve much of his report to private sessions.

He then explained that during the mission he had stressed the President’s early and personal interest in the Eastern Mediterranean to great effect. To build up the momentum developed it would be very helpful to have an early meeting with the President. After the meeting a carefully thought out statement should be issued. Everyone agreed such a meeting was imperative, not only for the signal it would send to the area, but also to provide guidance for future contacts on the Hill. The Secretary undertook to arrange such a meeting and once again thanked Secretary Clifford for his effort.

Clifford said there was one additional point he would like to raise and that was Makarios’ sense of outrage at the Washington Post’s CIA allegations.12 Makarios had raised President Carter’s comment in a press conference regarding a letter he had received from another individual named in the stories. Makarios indicated he would send a letter to the President and that he too would appreciate having that fact mentioned in some public mode.

  1. Source: Department of State, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Cyrus R. Vance, Secretary of State—1977–1980, Lot 84D241, Box 10, Vance NODIS Memcons, 1977. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Hopper on March 4; approved by Twaddell on March 16. The meeting took place in Vance’s office.
  2. See Document 8. The report includes records of Vance’s discussions during his mission.
  3. Not further identified. See Document 89 for an intelligence report on the impact of Clifford’s mission.
  4. No record of this meeting was found.
  5. In a news conference held in Nicosia on February 25, Clifford stated that “real progress” had been made during his mission. (Steven V. Roberts, “Clifford Says Solution Is Possible To the Cyprus Problem This Year,” The New York Times, February 26, 1977, p. 4)
  6. Clifford was in London February 27–March 1.
  7. See footnote 10, Document 8.
  8. No record of this meeting was found.
  9. No record of this meeting was found.
  10. Not further identified.
  11. No record of Clifford’s testimony was found. His prepared statement on his mission to the Eastern Mediterranean was relayed in telegram 53954 to Athens, Ankara, and Nicosia, March 10. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770083–0663)
  12. See Joseph Fitchett, “Cypriots Believe CIA Tried to Kill Makarios, Not Pay Him,” The Washington Post, February 24, 1977, p. A15. The article noted that Makarios denied receiving money from the CIA and was considering legal action against The Washington Post.