253 Cablegram to Jakarta and New York

Canberra, 8 October 1975


Portuguese Timor

Ref O.UN40021

While in no way intending an initiative of our own in the UN at this stage, we had been giving some thought, on a contingency basis, to the possibility of encouraging a simple resolution in the Fourth Committee which would have endorsed the concept of talks between Portugal and the three Timorese parties (your paragraph 7). But with indications that the Indonesians were backing away from support for talks, it has been difficult to see how we could promote this idea in New York. We have now renewed our efforts with the Indonesians to try to enlist their support for getting UDT and APODETI to accept talks. We would agree that to these efforts might now be added the suggestion that the Indonesians may see support for talks as their best means of avoiding a difficult situation in the Fourth Committee.

  1. Depending on the Indonesians' reaction, it may still be possible for them to gain support in New York for a resolution favouring or endorsing talks. Their prospects would presumably be enhanced if they were able to organise a hard-core of ASEAN-plus support which would give the initiative a regional flavour and thus perhaps help deflect any incipient African pressure for a pro-FRETILIN resolution.
  2. It would also be necessary to try to engage Portuguese support at an early stage. Provided the Indonesians were seen to be supporting Lisbon's renewed bid to get talks under way with the three Timorese parties, it is possible that the Portuguese might be brought to assist in New York. You will be aware in this regard that the Portuguese are relying heavily on Indonesian cooperation to influence UDT and APODETI to adopt a co-operative attitude to talks.

For Jakarta

  1. We realise that the Indonesians have been unreceptive to your previous attempts to engage them in substantive discussion on the UN aspects of the Portuguese Timor problem. But we tend to agree that it is time Indonesia set about trying to protect its position in New York. The considerations outlined in New York's UN4002 underline the need to bring the Indonesians to accept that they should put themselves behind proposals for a new round of talks between the Portuguese Government and the three Timorese parties. At a minimum, the Indonesians should be thinking of a Fourth Committee resolution which would support such talks.
  2. The situation may indeed have reached the point where, as New York remarks, a resolution might now have to reaffirm the right of the Timorese to independence as well as their right to self-determination. This would pose an obvious difficulty for the Indonesians. But they may be able to get round the problem by using the formula devised during the Committee of Twenty-Four hearings in Lisbon, namely a reference to General Assembly Resolution 1514 without an explicit mention of 'independence'. In any event, if the Indonesians are to head off something worse they clearly must get their own piece of paper into the ring.
  3. As opportunity permits we should also like you to take up with the Indonesians the question of the Portuguese prisoners held by UDT (see paragraph 10 of our CH2740752). As you know, Governor Pires returned to this question in discussion with Starey in Darwin on 6 October. The release of the prisoners would obviously improve the atmosphere and prospects for talks and could go some way to establishing a greater sense of rapport between the Portuguese and the Indonesians.
  4. We feel that these matters are now urgent and should like you to take them up as soon as possible with the Indonesian authorities. Meantime, we are asking our UN Mission in New York to stay its hand, although we would agree that if an Indonesian initiative is to get off the ground soundings will need to commence shortly.

For New York

  1. Please note the last sentence.

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