94. Memorandum of Conversation1

PARTICIPANTS

  • The President
  • Secretary of State Cyrus Vance
  • Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Clark Clifford
  • Robert Hunter, Staff Member, National Security Council (Notetaker)
  • Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel
  • Foreign Minister Sabri Caglayangil
  • A Notetaker
  • Plus Another Official

SUBJECT

  • President’s Meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Demirel

The President began by saying that he and the Prime Minister agreed that more engineers were needed in government as leaders—instead of all the lawyers!

Clark Clifford said he would take this up with the Foreign Minister!2

The President said that he was proud that Demirel was visiting us. There had been no chance to get acquainted before. There is a problem in the Aegean. We want to strengthen our ties with Turkey. He appreciates the hospitality given to Clark Clifford in Turkey, during the visit early in the Administration. Could Demirel help him understand what we can do to bring about peace in the Eastern Mediterranean? The U.S. is committed to Europe and to peace and friendship with Turkey. This is very important. How can we improve US-Turkish and Turkish-Greek relations? We would not interfere, but are available to help.

The Prime Minister thanked the President very much. He will express his deep concern, and should report the facts. Turkey and the United States are good, loyal friends. There had been three decades of common cause. Turkey is a free and independent democracy, which keeps the flag of democracy flying. Turkey is surrounded by communist countries and others, and is more democratic than they are. They share the values of the West, and will definitely defend democracy for the Turkish people.

Turkey is in a place that, if Turkey has troubles, it is difficult to repair them, no matter how much effort is made. The Soviet Union has not changed its goals of more than 300 years. It wants access to the sea, and now to the oil areas. Turkey is a handicap for the Soviet Union, which is not able to go out to the outside world. There is no problem in the Mediterranean with the Soviet Union, and he hoped there would not be. Turkey is trying to develop, and has “done good.” Despite troubles, it has kept the idea and the institutions of democracy. Soon it would have elections.

They are trying to build their country, and defeat poverty. If they can solve this problem, it will prove that democracy is not a handicap for development. No other developing country had been as successful as Turkey in the past 30 years.

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The President said that Turkey has a very favorable development rate, and deserves credit for it.

The Prime Minister said that relations with the U.S. are to their mutual advantage; they are based on good will and confidence. There is no evidence that Turkey has not lived up to the demands of its relationship with the U.S. It has the Soviet Union as its neighbor, with a common border. Turkey has done its all for the allies. It has let U.S. and NATO installations on Turkish soil to watch the Soviet Union, or to trap it in the Black Sea. Therefore, if there is trouble, Turkey is the first target.

The President said he understands.

The Prime Minister said that they had even allowed U.S. missiles, which were then taken out after the Cuban Missile Crisis. So much risk had been taken for the common cause. Then two years ago—with no direct conflict with the U.S. and no Turkish harm to the U.S.—there was a U.S. embargo on arms. The U.S. sells arms to 92 countries, but not to Turkey and not to (Cuba?).

The President said we are ready to sell arms to Turkey.

The Prime Minister said that the Turkish people found the embargo hard to understand. Turkey is a good and strong member of NATO and is needed.

The President said there is no question about that.

The Prime Minister said that NATO is still valid, and needs a strong partner (in Turkey), not a weak one.

The President agreed.

The Prime Minister said that Turkey’s army has one source of new weapons and spare parts. Its defense would collapse if it does not have them.

The President agreed.

The Prime Minister said that the embargo was imposed although there was no direct conflict with the United States. Then they had closed common installations. In March 1976, the Defense Cooperation Agreement was signed—this was more than 13 months ago. He had expected that Congress should lift the embargo, and repair U.S. relations with Turkey. This had not happened yet. There is deep concern about the rest of it (?). Turkey is a strong fortress of democracy, and is anti-Communist. It shouldn’t be paralyzed; and relations shouldn’t be endangered for nothing.

The President said he knows.

The Prime Minister asked how he could talk to his people when they say that an embargo means hostility and bad relations. But why? He had to answer his people.

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The President said he had only been in office a little more than three months. We are making good progress so far. Demirel should get great credit for it. We had increased from $125 to $175 million the authority to sell arms to Turkey. This is a move in the right direction. It should be seen in Turkey as progress and a victory, not as a defeat. This would help the President and our friendship with Turkey. It is a tribute to Demirel that the figure has been increased. His guess is that Congress will approve it.

There is a problem for the United States and Turkey. There are difficult relations with the Congress after Vietnam. We have strict laws on the use of U.S. weapons that we supply. There are deep feelings about Cyprus. Congress feels that, against U.S. law, weapons were used by Turkey in Cyprus. We must dissipate this feeling.

He is determined that the military agreement with Turkey will be approved, and thinks it will be. But Congress will not act before alleviation of the situation on Cyprus. He knows how deeply Demirel feels about not linking the issues. We can’t mislead Demirel: without progress on Cyprus, the Congressional view is that there needs to be a rectification of the use of U.S. weapons, against U.S. law. Otherwise, the DCA will not be approved. He has good hopes for it. He has spent hours trying to understand how to push Congress. It would be serious for relations with Turkey if the DCA came to a vote and were rejected by Congress. He wants to make sure that when the vote is taken, it will be “yes.”

He hopes for some expression from Turkey: not critical because there is no DCA, but appreciating the progress made on the increase in military sales. This would show that the two countries can work together, and value one another’s friendship.

He is pleased that Turkey had tabled a proposal on Cyprus. Demirel has influence with the Turkish Cypriots. If progress is demonstrated, then this would remove problems with the Congress.

Turkish friendship is crucial to the United States, as it was at the time of the Korean War, when Turkey stood shoulder to shoulder with us, when we almost stood alone. We will never forget this. The close friendship goes back to the time when President Truman provided aid to Turkey—not as a gift, but as an investment. It was a good investment for the United States, and paid rich dividends. He is proud of Turkey’s strength, its courage vis-a-vis the Soviet Union, and its commitment to democracy. If public statements stress disappointment and criticism and condemnation, then this will make progress difficult with Congress.

He knows how deeply Demirel feels about the DCA. He hopes that Demirel will let him deal with Congress in a way to bring results, not a negative reaction. If the vote were held now, it would be negative. If [Page 303]there is progress on Cyprus, he can assure Demirel that the vote will be positive. He needs Demirel’s help. He wants to restore complete friendship between the United States and Turkey.

The Prime Minister said that Cyprus is not a Greek and Turkish problem.

The President said he knows but it is seen as such in the U.S.

The Prime Minister said they feel the hurt in Turkey.

The President said he knows.

The Prime Minister said if the weight is put on Turkey instead of the Greek-Cypriots, there is hurt in Turkey, and this does not help.

The President said we did not put weight on Turkey more than on the Greeks.

The Prime Minister said that relations with the United States were being damaged for nothing. It is said, we can get the DCA, but first Turkey must act over Cyprus. To be frank: even if we get a solution on Cyprus, if the U.S. puts pressure on Turkey, this will not help.

The President said he knows.

The Prime Minister said that Turkey did not start the Cyprus problem.

The President said we know.

The Prime Minister said that Cyprus is more quiet now than ever. Turkey didn’t just go and invade one morning. They were forced to do so because nothing else could be done: there was going to be genocide. In this case, it is a 27 year old story. The Turkish people are sensitive about it.

The President said he knows.

The Prime Minister said that Greece is its neighbor, and that there are some problems. Turkey wants to settle them peacefully, and doesn’t want confrontation. They have been patient. But as long as Cyprus is interrelated with US-Turkish relations, then we will go nowhere.

The President said he did not equate Cyprus and other issues in his public statements. He didn’t create this link in the minds of Congress or the U.S. people, making it interrelated. He had not done that in his public statements, and never will do so.

Turkish willingness to work with Greece in the Aegean would be constructive. If the Foreign Minister could enter discussions on the Aegean with Greece, this would be important to the world: to have discussions and prevent war. It could preserve the Turkish position and pride, and prevent actions leading to combat.

We want to be fair, and act when asked. Clark Clifford could be an intermediary. We want to know Turkey’s position. We can act only [Page 304]when Greece and Turkey ask. There is no U.S. favoritism. He is proud of U.S. friendship with Turkey. The American people needed to be shown progress. The DCA agreement has not been signed (sic). The Cyprus problem had not been solved. And Greece and Turkey had not solved the Aegean problem. We need to show progress and friendship—this the world needs.

The Prime Minister said he had to repeat that it was a difficult position to explain the situation to the Turkish people. Cyprus was not a direct US-Turkey conflict. If it were, then he and the President could settle it!

They had a dialogue (with Greece?), but it was not successful. There were complicated cases. Turkey would not go to confrontation; it is willing to settle all problems. But if US-Turkish relations are related to the settlement of problems, where there had been one problem, there would be two: one to repair relations between Greece and Turkey, and two to repair relations between Turkey and the United States. Why do we have two problems instead of one? How can he explain to his people that the U.S. Congress and people want Turkey to settle problems with Greece and only then be friendly to Turkey?

The President said that this was not necessary for friendship. He is asking Demirel to let him work quietly on the DCA, and to work quietly and independently on Cyprus. Meanwhile, to emphasize progress made on arms sales, NATO, and friendship. There should not be emphasis placed on remaining problems: this makes solving them more difficult.

The Prime Minister asked how he could make this understood in Turkey? There is deep concern in Turkey that relations with the United States had been suspended for several months.

The President asked the Secretary when we would get the $175 million.

The Secretary replied “very shortly.”

The President said it will show strong commitment to Turkey, and our friendship.

The Prime Minister said that the $175 million is important, but more important is the U.S. attitude towards Turkey. This would be created with the ratification of the DCA. It will repair relations; it will make other things possible.

The President said that Demirel knows that he has endorsed the DCA. He has insisted that Congress pass it. It won’t before it sees demonstrable progress on Cyprus. If he could sign it now without Congress, he would do so. He has done all he can. We must separate three things in our minds: the DCA, Cyprus and the sales agreement—where there has been good progress that should be recognized.

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Later we should work for progress and Cyprus—that would be good; and also for progress on the DCA, which would be good. It would help the U.S. if not everything Turkey says is criticism. He would be pleased if we could ratify the DCA now, but we can’t.

The Prime Minister said that so far, all the DCA had done was nothing except damage relations with the U.S.

The President agreed.

The Prime Minister said he had made clear, as a great friend of the U.S. that it was time to defend US-Turkish relations. He had worked very carefully to keep down problems. He had tried not to damage relations with the United States.

The President said that this is very important.

The Prime Minister said that, to be frank, he is very much concerned.

The President said he had one point to add: is it possible to have continuing negotiations with Greece on the Aegean, instead of confrontations? We are eager for peace. We will not interfere. Is this possible?

The Prime Minister asked if peace were there. The problem would keep on as long as Greek-Turkish relations are injected into Turkish-American relations—then the problem cannot be solved.

The President asked what he could do to help.

The Prime Minister said: one thing, ratify the DCA!

The President said he would do his best. He said that Demirel was a very good and strong man.

The meeting adjourned at 9:25 and was followed by a brief discussion of what the two leaders would say to the press; followed by a meeting with the press outside Winfield House.3

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 35, Memcons: President: 5/77. Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Hunter. The meeting took place at Winfield House. Carter and Demirel were in London for the NATO Ministerial meeting, which took place May 10–11.
  2. Both Clifford and Çağlayangil were lawyers.
  3. For the press statements, see Public Papers: Carter, 1977, Book I, pp. 847–848. Later that day, Carter sent a handwritten note to Demirel, which reads: “I enjoyed being with you. We value your friendship. Thank you for being so helpful to me. Your friend, Jimmy Carter.” (Carter Library, White House Central Files, Countries, Box CO–56, CO 163 1/20/77–7/31/78)