105 Bruce to Curtin

Cablegram 71A LONDON, 7 June 1945, 4 p.m.

SECRET

Your 114 of 31st May. [1] Portugal.

I went this afternoon to see the Portuguese Ambassador.

Although the Ambassador was, as usual, very cordial personally, it proved to be a difficult interview.

I told the Ambassador that after giving most careful thought to the matter my Government had instructed me to see him and ask that the Portuguese Government should not press for the present, the question of the appointment of a Charge d'Affaires in Australia.

I said the reason for this request was no lack of appreciation of Portugal and should not be construed as a refusal to enter into diplomatic relations with the Portuguese Government, but was clue to the fact that at the moment we were heavily committed with regard to new missions abroad, with consequent demands on personnel to staff them.

I told the Ambassador that we fully appreciated that the Portuguese Government would not regard it as discourteous if, while agreeing to the Portuguese appointment at Canberra, we did not reciprocate by sending a representative to Lisbon. I said, however, that my Government felt, notwithstanding the comprehending attitude of the Portuguese Government, it was not a desirable situation that one sided representation should continue indefinitely.

As the Ambassador was obviously extremely disappointed at our reply, I gave him a somewhat detailed account of the commitments we had already accepted in recent years, including representation in the other British countries, which was, of course, of primary importance. I reinforced this by referring to the numerous approaches we had had from various European Allies. I stressed that if we agreed to the Portuguese proposal it would make our position with these Allies very difficult and this point, I am glad to say, the Ambassador at length appreciated.

Nevertheless, he returned to the charge on the basis of the many questions in the Pacific that it would be for Australia and Portugal to deal with and he emphasised that some of them would be matters requiring to be handled very expeditiously.

He pressed me to take the matter up again with my Government to see if there could be a reconsideration. I told him that I would report fully to my Government what he had said and we left the matter on this basis. The Ambassador, for his part, undertook to do his best to smooth the feelings of his people in Lisbon. This will not be an easy task.

BRUCE

1 On file AA : A1068, E47/38/8. It instructed Bruce to inform, the Portuguese Ambassador, the Duke of Palmella, that the Commonwealth Govt was not able to accede for the time being to a Portuguese request for a diplomatic exchange. It added, for Bruce's own information, that favourable consideration of the Portuguese request would be better deferred pending 'some clarification of the military and political position of Portuguese Timor'.

[AA : A5954, BOX 2253]