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Statement on the Situation in Cyprus

May 08, 1984

At the end of this month I will meet with the Foreign Ministers of all the NATO countries to mark the 35th anniversary of NATO's founding. The alliance is sound. But continuing disagreements between two vital members of the alliance, Greece and Turkey, are of great concern. Because our friendship with each country is so important, and because their need for one another is so great, special efforts must be made to reduce disagreements and promote harmony—particularly on the island of Cyprus, which has become a focal point of tension.

Successive administrations have tried unsuccessfully to solve the painful dispute which has divided Cyprus into separate Greek and Turkish communities. Over the last several years the Secretary General of the United Nations has worked painstakingly to keep the parties talking to one another. In November, after the Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence, the United States condemned the action and called for its reversal, while also working to encourage the parties to move forward in making real progress. On January 2 the Turkish Cypriots responded by proposing a series of goodwill measures, offering among other things to turn over part of the coastal city of Varosha to the United Nations for eventual Greek settlement. A few days later the Government of Cyprus proposed new guidelines for a comprehensive settlement. Turkey itself announced the removal of 1,500 troops from northern Cyprus. And the Secretary General of the United Nations was preparing to meet with the parties to discuss his own plan. We welcomed these developments as positive steps. Movement was at last occurring.

At this point, less than 2 months ago, Secretary Shultz wrote leaders of the Congress to caution that cuts in the Turkish assistance program could risk endangering this progress. Unfortunately, important NATO-related funding for Turkey was nonetheless cut in committee, no doubt in the mistaken hope that this would somehow stimulate progress on Cyprus. As a result, diplomatic efforts quickly ground to a halt.

We are now working to get diplomacy back on track. We have assured U.N. Secretary General Perez de Cuellar of our continuing support for his efforts to bridge the gaps between the Greek and Turkish communities of Cyprus.

I understand the frustration in the Congress and elsewhere about the need for progress. Indeed, I believe the time has come to try a new and more positive approach. Rather than punishing Turkey, let us focus constructive energy on ways of encouraging the parties on Cyprus itself, for it is here, ultimately, that differences must be resolved.

The administration and the Congress need to work together to re-create conditions conducive to successful diplomacy. We ask the Congress to work with us by supporting my request for security assistance for our Greek and Turkish allies, and by removing punitive conditions on that assistance. In return, I am prepared to work with the Congress in committing now to a special Cyprus peace and reconstruction fund of up to $250 million. Specific authorizations would be requested at such time as a fair and equitable solution acceptable to both parties on Cyprus is reached, or substantial progress is made toward that end. I intend this commitment to be a symbol of the shared concern of the administration and the Congress for promoting genuine results on Cyprus.

Peace cannot be bought. But peacemakers should know that the United States is prepared to go to great lengths to ensure that their labors are transformed into an enduring achievement. A reunified, stable, and secure Cyprus would be such an achievement.

We need to recognize, however, that our security assistance to Greece and Turkey is not given as a favor, but rather to deter aggression upon NATO. U.S.. national interests are at stake. Greek security needs deserve to be fully met. And Turkey—working to strengthen democracy, curb terrorism, and defend NATO along its vast common border with the Soviet Union-also deserves every penny we have requested.

The path ahead will not be easy. But bringing harmony to NATO's southern flank and to the troubled island of Cyprus is a goal worthy of our most special efforts.

Ronald Reagan, Statement on the Situation in Cyprus Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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