255 Press Statement

CANBERRA, 7 August 1947

INDONESIAN DISPUTE Australian Offer of Joint U.S.A.-Australian Arbitration

The Prime Minister commented today concerning reports of an American offer to mediate in the Dutch-Indonesian dispute.

The decision of the Security Council was that the two parties should cease hostilities and then submit to arbitration or other peaceful means of settling the dispute. When that decision was taken by the Security Council, it was interpreted by the Australian Government as meaning that the two parties would submit their case to an arbitrator who would give a decision which would be binding on the two parties, the arbitrator acting as an agent for the Security Council. Consequently, any offer merely of good offices does not adequately meet the situation.

Reports are current that Republican authorities do not find mediation acceptable, nor do they find the good offices of only one country acceptable. While it is understood that the Netherlands Government has accepted the American offer, it must be accepted by both parties before negotiations can commence. It might be recalled that previously the Indonesians accepted the good offices of the United Kingdom, United States, and Australia, which were put forward separately, but these, at that time, were not acceptable to the Netherlands authorities.

The present situation is full of dangers as, while there is a truce, there is no negotiation or contact between the two parties, and incidents are likely to occur each day which might make negotiations more difficult. The period between the cessation of hostilities and the commencement of negotiations should be as short as possible.

If both parties consider it would help to terminate this interim period and to commence negotiations immediately, the Australian Government, for its part, would be prepared to act jointly with the United States Government in a capacity of mediator and arbitrator.

This offer is made in the spirit in which the Australian Government raised the matter in the Security Council, that is in a spirit of impartiality and with one desire only, to see, as soon as possible, a peaceful settlement of the prolonged dispute in the Netherlands East Indies.

[AA:A1068/1, P147/5/2/2]