ASSISTANCE TO THE PORTUGUESE ON ATAURO2
- On the whole, it has been our view that Australian interests would be served in present circumstances for the Portuguese to withdraw completely from Timor. But we think that Australia ought not, by refusing support for the few remaining Portuguese in the frigate off Atauro, to precipitate their complete withdrawal. Were Australian support to be cut off, Australia would be open to the accusation of helping Indonesian military action in Timor. On the other hand, if the Portuguese themselves are decided on a withdrawal, in part or complete, it seems to us that Australia should give them help in the process. Another point to bear in mind is that in giving help to the Portuguese on Atauro, we have acted with the concurrence of the Indonesians—in the wake of the Rome talks between the Portuguese and the Indonesians at the beginning of November. As recently as late last week, Australian representatives were speaking publicly about continuing Portuguese responsibilities in Timor. We think that on the issue of helping the Portuguese stay in the area or leave it completely, we should keep our heads down for the time being by continuing to do what we have done in the past, that is, provide them with help on an ad hoc basis.
[NAA: Al838, 3038110/1/2, iii]