381 Cablegram to Canberra

Lisbon, 16 December 1975


Portuguese Timor

Ref O.LB6401

I am afraid that my call on Foreign Minister Antunes was not very encouraging. Antunes is still obviously very bitter about Indonesian 'aggression' and now feels that he was taken for a ride by Malik in Rome. (Contrary to the views of his more cynical advisers, Antunes returned from Rome in a fairly euphoric frame of mind.)

  1. As a consequence, Antunes' present attitude is pretty hard line and dominated by his views towards Indonesia. Portugal (he said) will not accept anything less than U.N. condemnation of Indonesia and a call for withdrawal of forces. Without such a withdrawal, it will be impossible for Portugal to fulfil its rightful role as the administering power in Portuguese Timor.
  2. I said that while I understood his feelings-like Portugal Australia could not condone the use of force-a U.N. debate which was confined to mutual recriminations between Portugal and Indonesia was not going to achieve anything. We must now try to develop positive proposals that would command general acceptance not least by Indonesia. I asked Antunes whether, in the event of Indonesia refusing to withdraw its 'volunteers', as seemed likely, would Portugal accept any proposal whereby Indonesian 'volunteers' would remain as a peacekeeping force under a U.N. mandate? Antunes categorically rejected the idea and said that Portugal would not be a party to any such deception.
  3. I canvassed the idea of trying to hold talks between Portugal and the political parties in New York. Antunes said that Portugal's willingness to do this was implicit in Teles' opening statement in the Security Council. But Portugal would not take the initiative. It would only act if the Security Council so requested.
  4. About the only positive note in the whole conversation was struck when Antunes said that if a withdrawal of Indonesian forces could be secured, Portugal would be prepared to consider the reintroduction of a 'modest military presence' in Timor to supervise an act of self determination. But to do this Portugal would need to be assured of logistic support from Australia for its forces.
  5. I adverted to Antunes' suggestion to Cousins that a conference be convened under U.N. auspices between Portugal and the parties possibly with the participation of other interested countries.2 I said that we would have serious reservations about his earlier suggestion that such a conference might include countries outside the region.3 Antunes denied that he had ever contemplated anything other than a regional conference. In practical terms he thought that only countries in the region would be sufficiently interested to want to participate. (On this point Antunes seemed to be in accord with the Malaysian proposal.4)


  1. In general, Antunes' attitude seems to be that Portugal is still prepared to soldier on in Timor provided that the Indonesian presence is removed. He had no suggestions to offer as to how this might be achieved. If it cannot be achieved, Portugal will presumably regard Timor as no longer its responsibility.


[NAA: Al838, 3038/ll/64, ANNEX]