218 Telegraph Message to Canberra

Darwin, 7 September 1975



From Dalrymple, Darwin

Ramos Horta returned last night from Dili with the Fretilin reply to Santos re proposal. They are unwilling to meet him on the Macdili and have proposed instead a meeting either in Mozambique or Lisbon on 20 September.

  1. Santos is today making a counter-proposal that they should meet in Macau on 20 September. This is to be transmitted to Fretilin by Ramos Horta in a telegram to Dili which appears to have been drafted jointly by him and the Portuguese mission. This telegram, according to Santos, also contains a series of injunctions to Fretilin about the necessity of avoiding any action or statement which could antagonise Indonesia or give any possible pretext for Indonesian intervention. It recommends that Fretilin seek to cooperate with Portugal, Indonesia and Australia and that peace and quiet be carefully preserved in the territory under Fretilin control with a firm prohibition on any reprisals against former opponents.
  2. Santos was uncertain until last night whether Horta still had much standing in Fretilin. He tells me he is now convinced that Horta is still accepted as a member of the leadership of Fretilin. Santos says that Horta has convincing evidence that the Fretilin leadership now is moderate and that the five or six extremists have little or no influence. He understands these latter will be returning to Portugal. According to Santos the intelligence the Portuguese themselves have been able to get in Atauro confirms Horta's account of the moderate complexion of the present Fretilin leadership.
  3. Fretilin have empowered Horta to be their emissary to explain to the Australian and Indonesian Governments that they want to cooperate in every possible way. He is to go to Canberra for this purpose tomorrow or Tuesday. I have not been told whom Horta will seek to see on the Australian side: but Santos said he would be requesting an appointment with the Indonesian Ambassador.
  4. Santos said that Fretilin's response conveyed by Horta included a proposal that, at the 20 September negotiations, the two sides seek to arrange for the return of Portuguese authority to East Timor for 'a certain period'.
  5. Now that he has made contact with Fretilin, Santos is intensifying his efforts to get a dialogue going with the UDT leaders. As you know he sent his Dove aircraft from Atauro to Atambua for this purpose but it has still not returned. The Portuguese Charge in Jakarta has now been told by the Indonesians that the plane has insufficient fuel to get back to Atauro. Santos says he believed this is untrue because there was more than enough fuel on board to get to Atambua and back to Atauro. He thinks the Indonesians have made a pretext to frustrate his efforts. He is now going to try again. There were two UDT officials among the refugees on the Caribou last Thursday and it is proposed to send them to Atambua or Kupang to contact the UDT leadership and bring back a response in the same way as Horta was used with Fretilin.
  6. When Santos has Fretilin's agreement on Macau as a venue on 20 September he expects to go to Canberra, Jakarta and Lisbon.1

[matter omittea]2

[NAA: A1838, 3038/10/1, xxxiiA]