311 Cablegram to Canberra

Lisbon, 29 October 1975


Portuguese Timor: Ministerial Statement

I have the following comments on the draft Statement (O.CH2838711).

Para 13 second sentence. It is not fair to accuse Portugal of being more concerned with their prisoners than with arranging talks. Their prisoners are obviously an emotive local issue (cf. the journalists issue in Australia) but the main thrust of the Santos plan was to restore the Macao program-the prisoners were a related but incidental issue. Suggest sentence be amended by deleting 'while the Portuguese for their part etc'.2

Para 14 first sentence. Portugal has not 'refused' to reassert its authority—it simply lacks the power to do so. Portugal has been and still is prepared to reestablish a presence in Timor-albeit a symbolic one. But it has not refused or denied its continuing legal and constitutional responsibility for Timor. Suggest therefore deletion of word 'refusal' and substitution of 'Portugal's regrettable inability'.3

  1. I appreciate your desire for a balanced statement and one in which we shall not be accused by the Indonesians of being 'soft on Portugal'. But at the same time, we should be scrupulously fair and accurate in our judgements. As it is, para 5 is pretty tough on Portugal, but I would be prepared to defend it as fair comment. We should also have in mind the need to encourage the Portuguese to 'hang on' in Timor.
  2. I am seeking an early interview with the Foreign Minister and would be glad to have the final approved text as soon as possible.


[NAA: A1838, 3038/11/64, ANNEX]