91. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Turkey-US Security Relations; Cyprus; The Aegean


  • US

    • Secretary Cyrus Vance
    • Matthew Nimetz, Counselor-designate
    • Raymond C. Ewing, Acting Director, EUR/SE (notetaker)
  • Turkey

    • Ambassador Esenbel

US-Turkey Defense Cooperation

Ambassador Esenbel said he would be returning to Ankara for a week or 10 days of consultations on April 9. Before he left Washington, he wanted on behalf of the Turkish Government to stress the importance of the US-Turkey Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA) signed in March 1976.2 In the campaign prior to the June 5 elections, there would most probably be criticism by Ecevit and others of the Demirel Government for signing an agreement which had still not been imple [Page 293] mented. In addition, the Turkish military faced increasing problems since its access to supplies had been interrupted. Esenbel said a partial solution through June had been worked out for the F–4 problem.3 He was aware of the recommendations of Clark Clifford but wondered when decisions would be announced. Esenbel noted that NATO Secretary General Luns took the position that the DCA should be approved by the Congress without conditions because of its importance to Turkey’s position in NATO.

The Secretary said that Clifford had submitted a written report to the President, and that decisions would shortly be taken so that they would be ready when Congress returns from its current recess on April 18. These pending decisions would include both suggested 1978 military aid levels for Turkey and possibly also endorsement of the DCA in principle.

Esenbel said his government hoped for the strongest possible statement to make clear the support of the Administration for the DCA. He recalled he had recently discussed timing with Clark Clifford(State 71604) who had said that soundings with Congress would help determine when conditions were ripe for movement on the DCA.4 This vague formulation did not satisfy his government.

The Secretary said we could not be more precise about timing at this stage. Priority attention was being given to the 1978 security assistance legislation. Esenbel asked if the Administration could say that Congress should take up the DCA as soon as it completed work on the 1978 aid bill. The Secretary replied that the most we could do in the near future, if we reach that decision, was to indicate the Administration’s endorsement in principle of the DCA. Mr. Nimetz hoped that this would help with the period through the Turkish elections.

Esenbel said he had recently talked with a number of Senators and Congressmen. He thought the Senate would support the DCA now. He agreed with the Secretary’s observation that the situation in the Senate was better than in the House. Sparkman had told him that if the Administration gives the signal he could get the DCA quickly to the floor. [Page 294] McGovern had told the Ambassador he was now open-minded and realized he had made a mistake in supporting the Turkish embargo; Humphrey would favor the DCA. Eagleton said he did not want a fight. The Secretary agreed that progress had been made and recalled he had told Esenbel in January that the Administration wanted to build support so that when it brought the DCA before Congress it would not be defeated.5

Esenbel said that on the House side Zablocki was prepared to push the DCA if the Administration asked. Solarz and Derwinski were ready for hearings in June while Rosenthal and his associates would never be satisfied. Hamilton had told Esenbel that priority should be given to the 1978 aid bill and that the Administration should “hang tough” regarding lifting of the FMS cash ceiling. Hamilton wanted to wait until he saw what happened to the aid bill to make a judgment on the timing of the DCA.


The Secretary said Congress would also be watching what happens at the Cyprus intercommunal talks in Nicosia next month. Esenbel said the Turkish side in Vienna had done its best.6 The talks would continue but Esenbel felt that the Greek Cypriot map with four zones was quite unacceptable. The Secretary said he thought getting a map on the table was at least a start. He felt that the Turkish Cypriot proposal was not as forthcoming as one could have expected either. Esenbel said it could be perfected; in any event a federal system for Cyprus would have to take account of the realities of the island. It could not be patterned on the Swiss or American models. The Secretary said he understood the problem but clearly both sides had a ways to go.

Esenbel thought that a settlement would take time since with all Turkish good will Archbishop Makarios would probably again change his position. But in any event Cyprus should not get in the way of US-Turkish military cooperation.

Greek DCA

Esenbel hoped the Administration would not ask Congress to consider the Greek and Turkish DCA together because the Turks were convinced that if that was the case the Greeks would continue to drag their feet. The Secretary said he had taken note of this Turkish concern.

[Page 295]


The Secretary asked about the status of the talks between Greece and Turkey on Aegean issues. Esenbel recalled the November 1976 Bern agreement on the continental shelf, but said the Greeks by insisting on technical-level expert discussions were adopting a procedural approach rather than trying to find a solution.7 The Turks felt a “political” effort to find a compromise was essential. The two foreign ministers would meet at the Council of Europe meeting in Strasbourg later this month. In response to the Secretary’s question as to whether there was any chance of movement before the Turkish elections, Esenbel said there might be more meetings at the technical level and Bilge and Tzounis might meet again in Bern on the continental shelf question. An agreement on airspace issues had been close but the Greeks had shifted their position.

The Secretary asked if it would do any good if we encouraged them to move. Esenbel said that would be helpful although the US should not try to come up with a solution. It would be very useful if we encouraged a political settlement. Mr. Nimetz recalled that Greece and Turkey interpreted differently the Bern agreement, particularly the function of the legal experts. Esenbel agreed that the legal experts could serve useful purpose, but they could not solve what was an important political problem. The Secretary agreed that it seemed to him that the complex Aegean issues could best be settled on political grounds.

USSR and Cyprus

In response to Esenbel’s question, the Secretary said the Soviets had raised Cyprus during his recent visit to Moscow.8 He had replied that talks were going on in Vienna; we supported the UN Secretary General and believed that the two communities should be given a chance to reach a solution. We did not want to interfere and did not think an international conference would be helpful.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Bureau of Congressional Relations, Subject Files and Chrons 1977/78/79/80, Files of Assistant Secretary J. Brian Atwood, Lot 81D115, Box 4, Greece/Turkey/Cyprus. Confidential; Exdis. Drafted by Ewing on April 11; approved by Twaddell on April 18. The meeting took place in Vance’s office.
  2. Secretary Kissinger and Foreign Minister Çağlayangil signed the U.S.-Turkish Defense Cooperation Agreement on March 26, 1976.
  3. Reference is to the U.S. plan to sell Turkey F–4 aircraft as part of a commercial contract in order to get around the legal prohibitions of the arms embargo. The Department reported this information in telegram 77318 to Ankara, April 7. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770120–1066)
  4. The meeting with Clifford took place on March 30 in Washington, at Esenbel’s request. Esenbel wanted to sound out Clifford’s thinking on how to proceed with the Defense Cooperation Agreement in light of his mission to Greece, Cyprus, and Turkey. Clifford stated that his trip reinforced his longstanding belief in the importance of the U.S.-Turkish relationship and of Turkey’s place in the NATO Alliance, but that he did not feel that the administration would be able to get the DCA through Congress at that time. (Telegram 71604 to Ankara, March 31; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770111–0183)
  5. See Document 84.
  6. See Document 11.
  7. Reference is to an agreement reached between Greek and Turkish officials in talks during November 1976 regarding the territorial dispute over the Aegean Sea. The text of the agreement included a list of pledges undertaken by both sides to ensure that future negotiations would be kept confidential and that neither country would undertake an action that would threaten the prestige of the other. (Telegram 12453 from Athens, November 22, 1976; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D760436–0040)
  8. See Document 36.