368 Cablegram to Canberra

Lisbon, 9 December 1975


Portuguese Timor

In view of Ambassador's present indisposition (our O.LB614) Foreign Minister Antunes asked Cousins to call on him this morning.

  1. Antunes said he had asked a representative of the Australian Government to call so he could brief him on recent developments in Timor and on Portugal's position. He referred to the breaking of diplomatic relations with Indonesia1, describing Indonesia's military action against a territory still under Portuguese administration as 'intolerable'.2
  2. He then went on to discuss Portugal's present position and its appeal to the Security Council for an urgent meeting, which he expected perhaps today (9 December) or tomorrow. Portugal saw the most urgent issues as an immediate ceasefire in Portuguese Timor followed by an immediate withdrawal of Indonesian troops. Secondly, Portugal would propose to the Security Council that the United Nations call a conference on Timor. Antunes thought the Security Council itself might convene the conference or perhaps the Committee of 24 or the Secretary-General. The conference, under the aegis of the U.N., would be attended by Portugal and representatives of the three Timorese political parties as the parties principal. Portugal would have no objection however, if other countries of the region (he mentioned specifically Indonesia and Australia) wished to address the conference and put their views.The organisation, dates and venue for such a conference would be up to the U.N. Portugal would not propose any.
  3. Asked what would happen in Dili after the withdrawal of Indonesian troops, Antunes said that Portugal thought the situation should revert to its former position. Under further questioning, Antunes said in effect that this meant reverting to the position of some two weeks ago before FRETILIN's UDI (i.e. a FRETILIN administration). Antunes ruled out any reĀ­-establishment of a Portuguese administration but thought on the other hand that it was possible that the U.N. might put in a peacekeeping force. He said nevertheless that Portugal's approach to the U.N. did not in any way represent a cession of Portuguese sovereignty over Timor to the United Nations.
  4. Cousins also asked about the Portuguese presence on Atauro island. Antunes replied that the Portuguese military on Atauro had already embarked on one of the Portuguese navy corvettes. The second corvette would, for the time being, remain in Timorese waters around Atauro, with a representative of Governor Lemos Pires on board.
  5. Antunes asked that Portugal's position be transmitted to the Australian Government. He hoped that Australia, in accordance with its foreign policy traditions and previous position on Timor, would adopt a 'just' position, which he thought would be favourable in many respects to Portugal's position. He understood, however, the complications of our relations with Indonesia as our largest and nearest neighbour.
  6. Cousins drew to Antunes' attention the points in paragraph four of the Minister's statement of 8 December,3 to which Antunes indicated his agreement. Asked whether he expected the Security Council to be sympathetic to Portugal's proposals, Antunes replied that he had already spoken to the representatives in Lisbon of the Permanent Members of the Security Council and he thought the Council would support Portugal's position.

[NAA: Al838, 49/2/111, viii]