193 Cablegram to Canberra

Lisbon, 27 August 1975


Portuguese Timor

Ref O.JA1476 1

It seems clear that, for the present at least, the Portuguese have decided against asking Indonesia to intervene. Their reasons are complex but they include: pride, a distrust of Indonesian intentions towards Portuguese Timor, a belief that integration (which would be the logical outcome of Indonesian intervention) at the present time would be contrary to the principle of self-determination and the wishes of the majority of the Timorese, and above all the admission (which would be inherent in any such request) that the Portuguese had failed to discharge their proper responsibilities in Timor.

  1. For all the above reasons, the Portuguese are casting around for alternative courses of action. They now recognise that the UN is unlikely to be effective, that Australia is not going to be drawn into another civil war in South East Asia, and that only Indonesia can stop the fighting (but at a price which some senior officials-e.g. Cruz-believe will be high).
  2. As I see it, the Santos mission is partly designed as a holding operation and a means of putting off the crucial decision about requesting Indonesian intervention. My guess is that the Portuguese hope that the decision will be taken out of their hands and they will be relieved if Indonesia acts on its own initiative, thus absolving Portugal (as the Portuguese would see it) from whatever happens thereafter.

COOPER [NAA: Al0463, 801/13/11/1, xii]