99. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The Secretary’s Meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Caglayangil


  • Turkey

    • Ihsan Sabri Caglayangil, Minister of Foreign Affairs
    • Ambassador Ilter Turkmen, Permanent Representative to the United Nations
    • Ambassador Melih Esenbel, Ambassador to the U.S.
    • Sukru Elekdag, Secretary-General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
    • Turgot Tulumen, Director, Cyprus Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
    • Ekrem Guvendiren, Interpreter
  • U.S.

    • The Secretary
    • Under Secretary Habib
    • Matthew Nimetz, Counselor of Department
    • Ambassador Ronald I. Spiers, U.S. Ambassador to Turkey
    • George S. Vest, Assistant Secretary, European Affairs
    • Nelson C. Ledsky, Director, EUR/SE

SUMMARY: Secretary Vance reviewed with Foreign Minister Caglayangil the results of previous working level discussions aimed at developing a series of joint steps to restore close US/Turkish relations. The two Ministers agreed that this effort had been worthwhile, and should be continued. The Secretary said he wished to discuss the question of US-Turkish relations directly with the President, and then have a further meeting with Foreign Minister Caglayangil with a view to reaching some firm conclusions that can provide a basis for real progress in the months ahead. END SUMMARY

The Secretary said he had reviewed the reports Counselor Nimetz had submitted following his return from Ankara and his meetings with Secretary General Elekdag this past week in Washington. Progress had clearly been made in developing a possible joint work program, and before Foreign Minister Caglayangil returned to Turkey it was the U.S. hope that a solid basis for progress could be established.

Foreign Minister Caglayangil responded with a lengthy monolog which began with some probing questions about Turkish and U.S. ob [Page 313] jectives. It had been the Turkish hope, said Caglayangil, to reach full agreement on a joint series of steps to strengthen Turkish-U.S. relations. Instead, all that had been produced thus far was a paper reflecting the differing perspective of the two sides.2 The question therefore arose as to whether we were proceeding in the right direction.

The Turkish intention was to rebuild U.S.-Turkish relationships. A 30-year period of close and wonderful U.S.-Turkish ties had suffered as a result of an arms embargo imposed by the U.S. To overcome that embargo, Turkey had negotiated a new Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA) with the United States. No one had forced the U.S. to sign that agreement, but having done so, all that Turkey now asked was that this agreement be ratified by the U.S. Congress.

The Turkish Foreign Minister said it had been his assumption that the United States had begun a dialogue with Turkey recently in an effort to find a way to implement the DCA and thus restore the overall U.S.-Turkish relationship. The point of the exercise was not, said Caglayangil, to find a solution to the Cyprus problem. Even if Turkey gave the U.S. a full power of attorney with respect to this issue, the problem could not be solved in October or November of 1977. Numerous difficulties stood in the way of progress on Cyprus. There was now no government on the Greek Cypriot side of the island capable of assuming the responsibilities for negotiating and implementing a settlement. The Greek government also had no incentive to find a solution and was now entering an electoral period of its own. Under these circumstances, Caglayangil asked rhetorically, why was the U.S. focusing on Cyprus? Did we want to carve out a role for ourselves? What indeed was the purpose of asking for specific steps now from Turkey with respect to Cyprus? Caglayangil said he hoped our requests were aimed at providing ammunition—not to convince the Administration of Turkish goodwill, but rather to help the Administration convince the Congress that the embargo had been in error and that the DCA should now be passed. If this was, in fact, the Administration’s motive, then Turkey was certain the Administration would be successful and was willing therefore to be of assistance in the process by taking certain joint steps with the U.S.

Foreign Minister Caglayangil, reading from the draft list of possible joint actions, then outlined what Turkey would be prepared to do. He said his government could issue a series of statements at the highest level, indicating Turkish support for the intercommunal negotiating process and its willingness to play a more active role in efforts aimed at achieving a Cyprus settlement. He said Turkey might also be prepared [Page 314] to withdraw some further troops from the island. Turkey was also willing to discuss all aspects of a Cyprus settlement at any forum which might be convened. Ankara could also provide assurances against unilateral actions in northern Cyprus which might interfere with the negotiating process. Finally, Caglayangil said Turkey would be prepared to participate directly with Greece to help bring about a Cyprus settlement, and could make a public statement to that effect.

With respect to a future Cypriot constitution, Caglayangil said this was a matter that had to be resolved by the two communities on the island through the negotiating process. It would not be useful for Turkey or the Turkish Cypriots, or even the two working together with western experts to formulate a concrete constitutional plan and then give it in advance to the Greeks or the Greek Cypriots. The general outlines of a future constitution had already been presented by the Turkish Cypriots last April in Vienna. It provided for a loose federation, with certain key powers such as foreign affairs reserved for the central government.3

Caglayangil said that as long as the U.S. embargo was in place, it was difficult to consider a direct U.S. role in such specific issues as a future constitution for Cyprus. It was even more difficult to envisage the U.S. assuming a role as mediator. Even if Turkey were to agree to such a role, this would not help the negotiating process. Indeed, such a U.S. role would create a whole series of new problems in an area where there were already more than enough difficulties. The fact was, said Caglayangil, that the current negotiating procedures had not, in fact, broken down. What was needed was not a new forum, but a way to bridge the existing gap on substantive issues between the two Cypriot communities.

Caglayangil said that he assumed that when our two staffs had talked about a more active U.S. role, this was conceived as a means to assist the Administration convince Congress that progress on Cyprus was being made. Why was a more active U.S. involvement necessary? The U.S. already had a role through the mission given to Secretary Clifford. This could continue. Moreover, the Turkish government was always willing to provide full information to the American side on negotiating developments. Turkey could not do more than that.

Caglayangil concluded by insisting that the draft action paper had made abundantly clear what the U.S. expected from Turkey; and that what was far less clear was what Turkey could expect from the U.S. Turkey needed to know when the DCA would be ratified. It needed to know how the U.S. planned to reorder U.S.-Turkish relations. What [Page 315] help would we provide in the economic sphere? Finally, Caglayangil said he wished to bring to the Secretary’s attention the fact that a Turkish journalist had received information from the State Department that the U.S. and Turkey were discussing certain practical steps, including a possible Turkish troop reduction from Cyprus. This kind of disclosure endangered the entire negotiating process now under discussion. This, said Caglayangil, underscored the importance of finding a solution to the entire publicity problem, which had long plagued the Cyprus negotiations.

Secretary Vance thanked the Turkish Foreign Minister for his presentation and said he would like to answer some of the basic questions which the Turkish side had raised. U.S. objectives, said the Secretary, were clear: to find a means to improve U.S.-Turkish relations, and get them back to where they were in the past. The U.S. recognized that an important factor in achieving this goal is Congressional approval of the DCA. The U.S. Administration would like to see this accomplished at an early date. The Secretary said he wished to be frank on this point. If the U.S. Government were to put the DCA forward before there was clear-cut support for the document, and the DCA were defeated by the Congress, this could set back U.S.-Turkish relations for a long time. Thus, the Administration had to be careful before embarking on the important step of urging Congress to vote on the DCA. The Secretary said he knew that it was a matter of principle to the Turkish government that there could be no linkage between Cyprus and the U.S.-Turkish security relationship. Unfortunately, such a linkage existed in the minds of many members of Congress. Therefore, it was our judgment that progress on Cyprus was needed to get the DCA passed. It is this progress that we have been trying to achieve. Because U.S. efforts thus far had not been successful, we hoped the joint exercise underway these past weeks might create the right atmosphere to move forward on both the Cyprus issue and the U.S. security relationship.

When Caglayangil confirmed that this also corresponded to Turkish objectives, the Secretary said he found many positive elements in the joint U.S.-Turkish paper. It should be clear, however, that the U.S. had no desire to play the role of mediator, or to get too far out front of the Cyprus negotiations. Our only interest was in seeing to it that progress was made.

The Secretary said he wished to talk to the President about this entire set of issues and then see Foreign Minister Caglayangil a second time to go over in even greater detail the action program now under discussion.

The discussion then turned briefly to the question of Turkish Cypriot leader Denktash’s role in any future negotiations. When the Secretary inquired as to whether Denktash was flexible and willing to [Page 316] enter into serious negotiations, Caglayangil responded that Denktash had both internal problems and his own ambition. The Turkish Cypriot leader was also unhappy about the present situation in which his government lacked any form of international respectability. Caglayangil noted that the PLO had an observer in New York and that in all fairness, Denktash deserved similar treatment.

Caglayangil suggested that the U.S. change its approach to Denktash as a means of moderating Denktash’s attitudes. This in turn would help the Turkish government control and contain Denktash, Caglayangil noting that while Turkey could hold Denktash’s hand, it could not close his mouth.

Counselor Nimetz said the U.S. had already assisted the Turkish Cypriot community, but was looking into ways in which further help might be provided. There were problems in this area, and it was our basic view that Denktash was a Turkish and not a U.S. problem.

The Secretary said he knew Denktash personally and had great respect for him. But he also knew the Turkish Cypriot leader could be rigid and at times difficult to deal with. The Turkish Foreign Minister agreed, and said if the Secretary knew Denktash, he certainly understood the problems the Turkish government faced in seeking to control him.

In summing up the conversation, the Secretary said the U.S. was interested in real progress in resolving the Cyprus problem, and not in cosmetic steps aimed at satisfying Congress. We also agreed that the intercommunal talks will get nowhere without the direct and active participation of Greece and Turkey.

The Secretary said he very much regretted the press leak which apparently occurred, and said he had no objection to a draft press statement which Foreign Minister Caglayangil circulated and said he wished to use at the conclusion of the meeting to dim press speculation about the contents of the discussion.

The meeting concluded with the Turkish Foreign Minister agreeing that if Greece can be persuaded to participate directly in future talks, this would immeasurably assist Turkey in controlling Denktash. He also said he very much welcomed the idea of a second meeting with the Secretary, after the Secretary had spoken with President Carter.

  1. Source: Department of State, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Cyrus R. Vance, Secretary of State—1977–1980, Lot 84D241, Box 10, unlabeled folder. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Ledsky on September 28; approved by Anderson on October 11. The meeting took place in Vance’s office at the UN Plaza Hotel. Vance and Çağlayangil were in New York for the annual session of the UNGA.
  2. Not found.
  3. See footnote 3, Document 38.