179 Cablegram to Canberra

Lisbon, 23 August 1975

O.LB235 SECRET PRIORITY

Portuguese Timor

Thanks your O.CH258350. I have conveyed paras 4 and 5 thereof, together with information in O.CH258355 to Director General of Political Affairs (Cruz) who was grateful for an up to date report on evacuation arrangements.1

  1. I had previously spoken to Indonesian Ambassador who confirmed Jakarta's earlier advice that he had on instructions informed the Portuguese that Indonesia would respond to a request from Portugal to participate in a security operation to restore order in Timor. Indonesia was concerned with the 'whole problem' of Timor, not just the evacuation arrangements. The latter would only take care of about 1000 foreigners and some military personnel. But what about the 600,000 indigenous people of Timor who were caught up in the fighting? Indonesia had close ties with these people and compared with their fate the evacuation of foreigners was only a 'minor problem'.
  2. Ruivo's response to the above was to say that he would consult the President immediately. Ruivo subsequently informed the Indonesian Ambassador (Say) that Portugal was exploring the possibility of establishing a good offices committee to mediate and to try to negotiate a settlement.
  3. I asked Say how Indonesia felt about a good offices committee. He did not reply directly but repeated that Indonesia was looking at the whole problem. The important thing was the restoration of law and order which would take care not only of foreigners in Timor but also the indigenous population.

    Comment

  4. It was implicit in what Say told me that Indonesia does not regard a good offices committee as adequate to cope with the present situation even if it could be established immediately. You will note that a scenario is being developed in which Indonesia could reasonably claim that it offered to help restore the status quo in Timor, that the Portuguese Government failed to respond to Jakarta's offer, and that therefore Indonesia had no alternative but to take the necessary steps itself to stop the fighting and restore order. It is perhaps significant that when I asked Cruz this morning if they had had any response from Indonesia he said only that'Indonesia had offered to send a ship for evacuation purposes but had not responded to request for their views on political aspects'.

COOPER

[NAA: A1838, 49/2/1/1, vii]