98. Memorandum From the Counselor of the Department of State (Nimetz) to Secretary of State Vance1

Our exploratory discussions in Ankara were designed to test whether a scenario could be developed that would lead to progress on Cyprus and to a political climate in which the Turkish DCA could be pressed and passed.2

The atmosphere of our talks was better than it was during our February visit.3 The new Demirel government, we were repeatedly told, has both a desire and the strength to deal substantively with difficult issues. It claimed to be doing so in economic matters, and said it could do so with respect to Cyprus. These claims still need to be tested.

We presented a basic message: the U.S. was a friend of Turkey, not an antagonist. We had common goals: restoration of good bilateral relations; strengthening of NATO; passage of the DCA; and a solution to the Cyprus problem by establishing a bizonal, federal state. Since we both wanted the same results, we should work together on a scenario of actions to be taken during the next few months so that our goals could be accomplished. We would try to take account of their political situation; they in turn must understand our political needs.

When it became clear that this approach was striking a responsive chord, we gave them some concrete ideas. We emphasized that these were preliminary ideas being floated on the working level to see whether they believed something along these lines would be feasible. Attached is a summary of a possible scenario, along the lines we pre [Page 310] sented in Ankara.4 I should say that, on the sub-ministerial level, we were told that a number of these ideas would probably be acceptable—but there were no commitments (and some expressions of difficulty) with respect to the more important items. These should be further explored when Foreign Minister Caglayangil arrives in New York. (He is bringing his senior staff who will meet with us in Washington before your meeting.)

I believe that we are now at a critical point in our relations with Turkey. We can no longer claim to be a new Administration “studying” the problem; on their side, elections have been held and a government is in place. The opportunity presented now could be seized upon to save the relationship and also to initiate a new phase in the Cyprus negotiations. On the other hand, if this opportunity is lost, I see only a deteriorating security relationship, with adverse implications for NATO, and also no real chance for movement on Cyprus any time in the near future.

Our goal was always to use the DCA as leverage for concessions on Cyprus. I believe that if the Turks accept a scenario such as the one we explored in Ankara, we will have succeeded in our goal.

I am sure that some will argue that we should hold out for still more. After nine months working steadily on this issue, it is my judgment that the type of Turkish undertakings represented by the attached scenario represents about the best that can be gotten. There is no chance of getting a signed and sealed Cyprus agreement any time soon—if only because of the political vacuum created by Archbishop Makarios’ death.5 In other words, to hold out for more would probably mean getting nothing on Cyprus—and losing perhaps our best chance to salvage our security relationship with Turkey.

We must wait to see whether the major elements of this package will be accepted by the Turks. Our conversations were with the most positive, pro-Western men in the Foreign Ministry; they will have their problems with their political leadership. Before we hear from them, however, I believe we must get a better sense of how this Administration wants to handle the Turkish relationship; namely, whether this Administration would agree to push the DCA on the Hill during the next six months under a scenario of this kind.

Let me add to this memorandum a few fundamentals about the Eastern Mediterranean problem:

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1. The deterioration of Turkey’s military establishment caused by the embargo has reached critical levels. Most experts believe it will take up to a decade to bring the Turkish armed forces up to NATO standards. Our Military Attaches in both Athens and Ankara believe that Greece has now overtaken Turkey militarily, at least in the air and sea. This has the Turks worried. It also means that the Turkish DCA is no threat to Greece.

2. The situation in Cyprus has changed radically with Makarios’ death. Kyprianou may or may not stay on as President in the February elections, but the important fact is that no leader will have the personal charisma or the political base to negotiate, much less sell, a settlement in the next months to the Greek Cypriots.

3. This power vacuum on Cyprus places a new burden on Greece. Given the politics of Cyprus, no agreement can be sold on the island without Greece’s seal of approval. Therefore, it is important that the Greeks be brought into the negotiating process—either formally or informally. The Turks independently have also reached this conclusion. Greece, however, will be reluctant to participate, for Cyprus is a political liability. Greek leaders have expressed this attitude repeatedly. We believe that U.S. involvement might help to overcome Greek reluctance to participating.

4. The intercommunal talks under Waldheim are the central mechanism for the negotiations, since they are a UN-established means of bringing Greek and Turkish Cypriots together on the basis of equality. However, the intercommunal talks cannot by themselves negotiate a settlement. First, neither Greece nor Turkey are represented at the table, and their presence is vital. Second, everything said at those meetings is leaked to the press. Third, the UN mechanism lacks the authority or political force to move the talks forward.

5. For these reasons it seems obvious that third-party involvement is required—behind the scenes, confidential interchanges in support of, and as a supplement to, the UN process. The United States is the obvious—perhaps only—choice. (Joint US-British or US–EC–9 are possible alternatives.) The Greek Cypriots have already put their trust in us—they want us to mediate and know that only the U.S. has the influence to move the Turks. Greece, too, might be willing to become engaged if it knows that we will be playing an important role. Now, if Turkey will also invite us to serve in a mediating capacity, we will have the moral and political authority to work effectively for a real solution to the Cyprus problem. However, their wounded pride and Turkish political realities make it impossible for them to permit the U.S. to play a defined and visible role while our embargo is in effect. I think the Turks can be persuaded to accept our involvement, but only after the embargo is lifted. The attached scenario is built upon this premise.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Records of Counselor Nimetz, 1977–1980, Lot 81D85, Box 2, Eastern Mediterranean—1977. Secret; Sensitive.
  2. The discussions were part of a trip to Athens and Ankara taken by Nimetz September 11–16, in preparation for Vance’s upcoming meetings with Greek Foreign Minister Bitsios and Turkish Foreign Minister Çağlayangil in New York.
  3. Reference is to the Clifford Mission.
  4. Attached but not printed is a list, titled “Possible Scenario Based on U.S. Ideas Presented to Turkey,” prepared by Nimetz as a guide for analyzing the matrix of issues confronting U.S. policy in the Eastern Mediterranean.
  5. Makarios died on August 3.