235 Cablegram to Canberra

Lisbon, 17 September 1975


Portuguese Timor

Ref O.CH268387 1

Jakarta (for Woolcott); UN New York (for Minister and Harry)

I shall endeavour to answer your questions seriatim:

Your paragraph 3. I don't think Santos has had a change of heart. His distrust of the Indonesians is as great as ever, but I believe that he is sufficiently realistic to conclude (probably as a result of his trip) that Indonesia has decided as an act of policy to take over Portuguese Timor, and that therefore the only sensible thing for Portugal to do is to work to bring this about on internationally acceptable terms. But this does not mean that Santos likes the Indonesians (he doesn't) and in this respect he reflects a generally held Portuguese attitude. In our discussion yesterday Santos told me that he went to Jakarta with full powers, even including authority to invite Indonesia to intervene, but that he did not do so because he was convinced that it would result in an Indonesian massacre of Fretilin far worse than the bloodshed which intervention would be supposed to prevent. But Santos sees no point in trying to prevent something (i.e. integration) which he now regards as inevitable. Santos' whole approach is a fairly cynical one-I don't think he is greatly concerned about the real wishes of the Timorese. He wants a solution that gets Portugal off the hook and by means which leave Portugal's image relatively untarnished. As to Fretilin's capacity to consolidate its administration, Santos is confident that, apart from Indonesian pressure, the logistic problem of running the territory is beyond Fretilin's capacity and that they will soon come to realise this. He is of course contemptuous of the Fretilin leadership (as he has been of all Timorese politicians whom he once described to me as a bunch of schoolboys). Nor is Santos greatly concerned about the refugee problem and the difficulties this is creating for Indonesia. It would not be unfair to describe Santos' attitude as one of schadenfreude coupled with the thought that the Indonesians largely brought it upon themselves by their collusion with UDT.

Your paragraph 4. Santos' immediate objective is to get the Indonesians to persuade UDT to release their Portuguese detainees and to agree on a mutually acceptable venue for talks. He proposes to do this by talking to the Indonesian Ambassador here and through Girao in Jakarta. He also hopes that we shall agree to lend our support by talking to the Indonesians. Once UDT has agreed to talks Santos believes the Indonesians can 'deliver' Apodeti at any time. Meanwhile, Fretilin will be allowed to reflect on their so-called victory for a week or two at the end of which Santos believes they will be much more co-operative. As he indicated at his press conference (our O.LB3172) Santos does not regard it as essential that tripartite talks should take place simultaneously. Although clearly this will be the first objective.

Your paragraph 5. Santos does not have a clear time table at this stage. But he said yesterday that even if it took until October 1 to arrange the talks this would be no bad thing. He believes that the longer Fretilin are allowed to 'sweat it out' the more co-operative they are likely to be. Once all three parties have agreed to talks Santos does not anticipate any real problem about a venue.

Your paragraph 7. Santos stated categorically that his plan had been approved by the President and the Foreign Minister, (paragraph 6 of our O.LB3223) and I made him repeat this assurance. But I agree that I should check it out as soon as possible, and I am seeking an appointment with Melo Antunes. (A complication here is that Antunes has not yet been formally sworn in as Foreign Minister and he may decline to receive me until this has been done.) As to Mota's views, my guess is that Santos has convinced the President and Antunes that whatever superficial attraction there may have been in the idea of handing over to Fretilin, Indonesia has made it clear that it was not going to let it happen, and that Portugal's best bet was to try to hold the ring in Timor until such time as a pro-integration consensus emerged which would permit a political solution acceptable to all parties.


[NAA: A10463, 801/13/11/1, xiv]