197 Cablegram to Canberra

Lisbon, 28 August 1975

O.LB261 SECRET PRIORITY

Portuguese Timor

Ref O.CH260571 1

I spent nearly an hour with Cruz this afternoon.

  1. I said I wanted to clarify certain aspects of Portuguese policy particularly as it concerned Indonesia. I understood that the Indonesians had again suggested that Portugal should reiterate publicly its inability to restore law and order in Timor and if not prepared to ask Indonesia publicly to intervene they should consider doing so privately. Was this correct? If so how would Portugal reply?
  2. Cruz said that the Portuguese Charged1 Affaires in Jakarta had been instructed to make it clear that there would be no request to Indonesia pending the outcome of the Santos visit. Santos had been given 'full powers' by the President to negotiate on Portugal's behalf. Asked if these powers included authority to request Indonesian intervention, Cruz hesitated and then said 'yes if he considered it necessary'. However it was clear from Cruz's subsequent remarks that Portugal has no such intention.
  3. Cruz said that they had been under considerable pressure from the Indonesians to agree to intervention but Portugal had a responsibility to the Timorese and to the international community not to hand Timor over to Indonesia unless they were satisfied that Indonesia would act only as the agent of the administering power (Portugal) and in accordance with U.N. objectives. This was, inter alia, what Santos was commissioned to find out.
  4. I asked whether the Santos mission and a request for Indonesian intervention were necessarily mutually exclusive. Could not both avenues be pursued simultaneously (your O.CH260571 para. 5). I referred to this afternoon's lead story on the BBC News which reported that an Indonesian destroyer had anchored in Dili harbour, that the Indonesians had gone ashore and arranged a temporary cease fire to permit evacuation of refugees, but that the destroyer had been obliged to withdraw at the request of the Portuguese Government. The whole thrust of the story was that the Indonesians were trying to be helpful and that the Portuguese were being obstructive. This was not calculated to improve Portugal's international image.
  5. Cruz conceded the point, but said that in their view once they had given the Indonesians the green light the evacuation operation would have rapidly been developed into a full scale Indonesian take over. Portugal was not prepared to connive in bringing this about. Portugal would not approach Indonesia directly, but only through the United Nations. If the UN called on Indonesia to intervene on Portugal's behalf, Portugal could accept that. But Portugal would not go it alone.
  6. I said that Santos could not possibly complete his mission in under a week and it would probably take much longer. Meanwhile there were reports that food was running low in Dili and that humanitarian assistance was urgently needed. Could Portugal afford to ignore this situation, especially when the Indonesians had ships in the area carrying rice and other forms of assistance?
  7. Cruz said that if the Indonesians genuinely wished to help with the humanitarian problem, as distinct from furthering their political objectives, they could ask the Governor, who was still the legally constituted authority in Timor, for permission to land and assist with evacuation. If such permission were sought, Pires would agree provided he was satisfied that the purpose of the proposed landing was limited to evacuation and humanitarian aid. As it was, the Indonesians had gone ashore in Dili without seeking permission from anyone. He also thought it significant that the Indonesian Consul had remained in Dili although he could easily have left had he wished to do so.
  8. I asked Cruz whether there was any intrinsic difference between the Governor authorising an Indonesian landing and Lisbon giving its sanction for the same operation. Cruz said there was. Pires could authorise a landing for limited purposes, but an authorisation by Lisbon would be regarded in Jakarta as tacit approval for an Indonesian take over. (You will note throughout our discussion Cruz's profound distrust of Indonesian intentions, a distrust which I believe is widely held in official circles in Lisbon.)
  9. I said that, on balance, it seemed to us that it was in Portugal's international interests to request Indonesian intervention, and that such a request could be circumscribed along the lines we discussed earlier (our O.LB251 para. 32 ). If Indonesia subsequently exceeded the Portuguese mandate, international opinion would probably accept that Portugal had done what it could to protect the interests of the Timorese. However, I assumed that domestic considerations were a factor in the Portuguese Government's attitude. There was presumably no ideological love lost between Lisbon and Jakarta and this I assumed coloured Portuguese thinking. Cruz agreed.3
  10. We then discussed the Santos visit. Cruz did not know how long he would spend in Jakarta but Santos' intention was to go from there to Canberra and then to Atauro (if circumstances warranted). He then planned to go to Darwin for talks. Asked if he had anyone specific in mind, Cruz said no. In addition Santos planned to go to Singapore and Malaysia if time permitted. I said we thought this was a good idea although our soundings had indicated that the other countries of the region seemed reluctant to be drawn into the Timor problem.
  11. Finally we had a brief discussion on the Portuguese domestic scene. Cruz observed that Goncalves had regained some ground recently and that the President's position was becoming weaker every day.

COOPER

[NAA: A10463, 801/13/11/1, xii]