332 Cablegram to New York

Canberra, 10 November 1975


Portuguese Timor/United Nations

You will note from Jakarta's telegram JA29381 that Adam Malik and the Indonesians generally continue to be reticent about the possibility of United Nations involvement in the Portuguese Timor issue. Notwithstanding this reaction, however, and whatever agreement the Portuguese and Indonesians come to in Rome, the fact remains that the Fourth Committee will soon be discussing the issue and the Department continues to believe it important that Australia and the Indonesians should not leave the running in the Fourth Committee to non-regional countries.

  1. We have been giving some consideration as to whether the Item might not be concluded with some form of consensus statement as occurred at the time of the Committee of Twenty-Four hearings in June. The advantage of a consensus statement is that it would be less susceptible to amendment especially if, as we should hope, it could be represented as a regional initiative: a statement might simply be made at the beginning of the debate announcing that regional countries were working on a draft consensus: the consensus itself could then be introduced late in the debate when hopefully it would be accepted without objection.

  2. It is relevant in regard to a possible regional consensus approach that the Chairman of the Fourth Committee (Mrs Famah Toka-Bangura of Sierra Leone) in her opening remarks at the beginning of the Committee's work, stressed the advantages 'in the first instance of the cooperation, initiative and good offices of the neighbouring states (acting) on a regional basis' in approaching problems associated with the decolonisation of small territories.

  3. As against this, we recognise that delegations like Tanzania and Mozambique may now be too far committed to permit a simple consensus approach. They may insist instead on a resolution which should include an input from themselves. Accordingly, in our accompanying telegram we include the texts of both a possible draft resolution as well as a shorter draft consensus statement.2

  4. In a sense, both drafts represent minimum texts. They do not, for example, call for any specific action on the part of the Committee of Twenty-Four, and, in particular, they make no reference to a fact finding mission, an idea which the Tanzanian Chairman of the Committee has been quietly canvassing in New York. Our thinking is that the necessity of such action need not be conceded immediately at least until the pros and cons have been discussed by regional countries. For our own part, if a fact finding role were deemed necessary we may prefer to think in terms of a representative of the Secretary-General (cf. operative paragraph 6 of our draft resolution) than a visit by a mission of the Committee of Twenty-Four. For domestic as well as other reasons. Australia could hardly avoid seeking membership of a Committee of Twenty-Four mission with all the difficulties of additional involvement in the Portuguese Timor problem that would entail. These difficulties could also arise with the involvement of a representative of the Secretary General, but less directly, and we should have more flexibility in reacting to various proposals which might emerge.

  5. As indicated, we feel the time has arrived when we must try to bring the Indonesians to focus on these matters. Our hope would be to convey to them, in Jakarta, Australian suggestions for a possible consensus and/or resolution before the end of this week. Before doing so, however, we should appreciate your comments on the advantages and feasibility of a consensus statement [as] against a resolution, and also any observations you may have about the two texts—we imagine that it would be difficult to include a reference in any resolution to Resolution 1541 (XV) to match that to 1514 (XV),3 but you may wish to advise on this possibility.

  6. At this stage we do not want you to discuss our texts with other delegations, or indeed indicate that we are actively considering the matter. Nevertheless our hope would be that, if we can bring the Indonesians in Jakarta to agree on a text or texts, these drafts might be circulated at the next meeting of the ASEAN-plus group which Anwar Sani had foreshadowed he would be convening following his return from the Rome talks and his visit to Jakarta.

  7. For Jakarta

  8. As you will see, we hope to be in a position later in the week to convey to you texts which you might pass to the Indonesians. In doing so you shall need to stress that we are not trying to force the pace, but rather to do what we can to keep the Fourth Committee debate within bounds. We realise of course that the Indonesians would prefer no Fourth Committee debate at all, and that they are pleased that the Portuguese appear to have assured them that Portugal does not want UN involvement either. But it seems unrealistic for the Indonesians to expect that the Portuguese Territories Item might pass in the Fourth Committee without some sort of conclusions.

  9. [NAA: A1838, 906/30/14/3, i]