Structure and Scope of the Foreign Relations Series

This volume is part of a Foreign Relations subseries that documents the most important foreign policy issues of the administration of Jimmy Carter. The focus of this volume is on U.S. policy towards Cyprus, Turkey, and Greece. U.S. diplomacy in the Eastern Mediterranean region under President Carter, however, was heavily influenced by dramatic events during the Nixon and Ford administrations; in particular, the attempt by the Greek military Junta to depose Cypriot leader Makarios III in July 1974 and the subsequent Turkish invasion of Cyprus. The 1974 Cyprus crisis still posed a daunting set of interrelated policy challenges two and a half years later. First, the Turkish invasion created a violent de facto division of Cyprus between its ethnic Greek and ethnic Turkish communities. Second, Greece, citing the inability of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to prevent the invasion, removed itself from the Alliance’s military structure. And third, the U.S. Congress, in protest of the Ford administration’s perceived “tilt” toward Turkey in this dispute, imposed an arms embargo on Turkey, which went into effect in February 1975. Readers who wish to understand the broader context of the Carter administration’s Eastern Mediterranean region policy, therefore, should consult Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXX, Greece; Cyprus; Turkey, 1973–1976. The administration’s efforts to address the impact of the Cyprus conflict on the NATO Alliance are documented in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, volume V, European Security, 1977–1983.

Focus of Research and Principles of Selection for Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, Volume XXI

This volume documents the major foreign policy decisions taken by the Carter administration toward Cyprus, Turkey, and Greece. Documentation in this volume includes memoranda; records of discussions within the U.S. policymaking community as well as with foreign officials; cables to and from U.S. diplomatic posts; and papers that set forth policy issues and options and that show decisions or actions taken. The documentation emphasizes both the process by which U.S. policy developed and the major consequences of its implementation.

The organization of the volume reflects the chronology as well as the geography behind the Carter administration’s approach to the Eastern Mediterranean region. Unlike previous Foreign Relations volumes on the subject, this volume features a regional compilation on the [Page VIII] Cyprus conflict. This editorial decision reflects the strategic and political decision by the administration, at the outset, to approach the division of Cyprus holistically as a complicated matrix of issues involving not only Cyprus, Turkey, and Greece, but also the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities and their respective relations with their counterparts in Athens and Ankara.

The regional compilation features documentation on Carter’s prior commitment to resolving the Cyprus conflict. As a candidate for President, Governor Carter and his principal foreign policy advisers, Cyrus Vance and Zbigniew Brzezinski, saw in the region an opportunity to draw a sharp distinction between what they perceived as the Ford administration’s failed approach of “tilting” toward Turkey and downplaying the human rights violations that occurred as a result of the Turkish invasion. Carter’s critique of Ford’s policy aligned him with those in Congress who supported the arms embargo on Turkey. Carter pledged that, if elected President, he would put renewed focus on the region through high-level diplomacy.

The memoranda and reports contained in the regional compilation show the Carter administration grappling with the Cyprus issue in strictly multilateral terms. This regional coverage, however, has its limitations. The vast majority of Embassy cable traffic, as well as records of bilateral meetings between U.S. officials and their counterparts, are in the country compilations. Furthermore, toward the end of the administration, when it became clear that Carter’s initial goal of reunifying Cyprus would not succeed, U.S. officials resorted to a more bilateral approach in Greece and Turkey, while at the same time decreasing Washington’s profile in the ongoing negotiations between Greek and Turkish Cypriots. As a result, the regional compilation is “top heavy.” As the administration’s multilateral approach became less intense, there was less corresponding documentation.

As with the regional compilation, most of the documents in the bilateral Cyprus compilation date from the administration’s first two years. Carter and his advisers initially viewed a Cyprus settlement and reunification of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities as pivotal to defusing tensions between Greece and Turkey; consequently, the administration focused much of its initial efforts on Cyprus. The documents in this compilation demonstrate that the interests of the Greek and Turkish Cypriots did not always align with their respective counterparts in Athens and Ankara. This divergence, along with the largely irreconcilable negotiating postures among the leaders of both Cypriot communities, effectively brought the prospects of a full settlement to a halt by the end of 1977. Although Carter and his advisers continued to advocate a settlement and push for the United Nations to take an increasingly active role in negotiations, the momentum required to achieve a breakthrough was largely lost by early 1978.

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The compilation on Turkey includes documentation on the administration’s decision in 1978—despite lack of progress on Cyprus—to press Congress to overturn the arms embargo on Turkey. Many U.S. officials concluded that the embargo had taken a serious toll on Turkey’s defense posture—the ramifications of which affected not only Turkey itself but NATO as a whole—and that, in turn, U.S.-Turkish relations were rapidly deteriorating. Members of Congress who had advocated linking a Cyprus settlement to the arms embargo argued that Carter had broken his campaign promise. Citing high-level efforts to forge a settlement, the administration—notably, Paul Henze of the National Security Council Staff—countered that, without abandoning its goals for Cyprus, U.S. interests in the Eastern Mediterranean region were broader than the island stalemate. The White House lobbying campaign paid off: in the summer of 1978, both houses of Congress voted to overturn the arms embargo on Turkey, thus improving U.S.-Turkish relations and addressing concerns for the viability of NATO.

The principal focus in the compilation on Greece is the Carter administration’s efforts to reintegrate the Greek military into the NATO command structure. In light of the administration’s de facto de-linking of Cyprus from the arms embargo on Turkey, this proved to be no easy task. While Greek leaders gradually de-emphasized the role of Cyprus in U.S.-Greek relations, Athens was unwavering in its insistence that Washington maintain the arms embargo on Turkey. Greece insisted that not only would lifting the embargo make Turkey more intransigent on Cyprus, but also that the ethnic Turkish community in Cyprus was much less independent of Turkey than Ankara claimed. As the documents in this compilation demonstrate, Greek concerns were rooted more deeply in strategic concerns relating to the military competition and territorial disputes in the Aegean Sea with Turkey. Athens argued that lifting the arms embargo would make Turkey more likely to engage in regional adventurism. In October 1980, after a protracted series of negotiations on the command and control structure of Greek and Turkish forces in the Aegean, Greece—with the support of the new military government in Turkey, which took power in a coup the previous month—agreed to rejoin the military structure of NATO, on the condition that a NATO commander would direct Greek and Turkish forces on a case-by-case basis.


The editors wish to thank officials at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, the National Archives and Records Administration (Archives II) at College Park, Maryland, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Department of Defense. David Zierler collected and selected documentation and edited the volume under the supervision of David Geyer, Chief of the Europe and General Division, and Edward C. Keefer, [Page X] former General Editor of the Foreign Relations series. Melissa Jane Taylor and David Geyer reviewed the volume. Chris Tudda coordinated the declassification review, under the supervision of Carl Ashley, Chief of the Declassification and Publishing Division. Stephanie Eckroth and Rita Baker did the copy and technical editing. Do Mi Stauber, Inc. prepared the index.

David Zierler, Ph.D.