245 Cablegram to Lisbon and Jakarta

Canberra, 30 September 1975


Portuguese Timor: Talks

Ref. O.CH272232 1

It is difficult to know where we go from here-and to avoid the suspicion that the Indonesians, or at least Tjan, choose deliberately to ignore what now seems to be the established fact that the Portuguese did convey their plan in its entirety to the Indonesians. Although it is difficult to do so without risking embarrassment to Ambassador Say, Jakarta might consider putting it to Tjan that, having checked very thoroughly in Lisbon, we are convinced that the Portuguese plan was put in its entirety to the Indonesians as to us.

  1. For whatever reason, the Indonesians, we must assume, are now firmly opposed to talks (cf. Paragraph 2 of JA2103). This opposition, which may be publicly inferred from the UDT and APODETI refusal of the Portuguese invitation to talks, has serious implications for our own policy, which has been to support talks. It also seems to us that, if their opposition to talks becomes known, the Indonesians will have further difficulty in maintaining the credibility of their public commitment to the right of the people of Portuguese Timor to decide their own political future which remains a major part of Australian policy. All in all events seem to be moving towards a reference of Portuguese Timor to the United Nations in circumstances unfavourable to Indonesia.
  2. We agree with some of the arguments in paragraph 3 of JA2096 and with the points for public presentation in paragraph 4 of the same telegram.2 But we do not now see how the Indonesians could favour our making it known that we should be prepared to offer Darwin as the site for talks. There are in addition two main difficulties in the way of our offering Darwin, first, if talks were to be held in Darwin it would undoubtedly stimulate further (and possibly major) press and some public interest in the issue of Portuguese Timor (and that interest is mainly concerned with supporting FRETILIN, ignoring the Indonesian interest in the territory and the problems of the refugees in Indonesian Timor).Second, we should risk being associated with the outcome of the talks in a way which would risk drawing us into Portuguese Timor further than Government policy favours or reducing our range of policy options.

[NAA: Al0463, 801/13/11/1, xiv]