322 Cablegram to Jakarta

Rome, 4 November 1975


Portuguese Timor—Rome Talks

Sosrowardojo1 told me today that Malik and Melo Antunes met on 1 and 2 November and signed Memorandum of Understanding on 3 November. On instructions, he was unable to show me a copy of the Memorandum until Malik had reported to the President on his return to Jakarta, but his oral summary of what the Memorandum includes confirms what is reported in Jakarta's O.JA2832.2 Adenan, Alatas, Sosrowardojo and the Indonesian Ambassador to Portugal had attended the talks. The press release issued at the conclusion of the talks is being forwarded in separate telegram.

  1. Sosrowardojo said that the initial discussion had revealed how little information and understanding the Portuguese Government had of the current situation in East Timor. It was clear that Timor had been given a low priority in comparison with other Portuguese problems, particularly Angola. The Indonesians were satisfied that, as a consequence of the Rome talks, the Portuguese would henceforth upgrade the importance of reaching an acceptable solution on Timor. Sosrowardojo showed familiarity with the text of Senator Willesee's statement of 30 October.3 His comments suggested that it had been a useful reference point during the talks with Portugal.
  2. You will note that press release refers to need to restore peace and order in the territory and necessity for a meeting between Portugal and all political parties to end strife and bring about process of decolonisation. I pointed to Senator Willesee's indication that if all the parties wished it, the Australian Government would be prepared to offer an Australian venue for round table talks. Sosrowardojo said that it was obvious that the Portuguese Government had no suggestions to offer regarding the locale of such talks. Malik had suggested Bali as a suitable meeting place. Malik had told Melo Antunes that Indonesia would exercise its influence on UDT and APODETI to bring them together with FRETILIN for round table talks. Melo Antunes had said that in so far as Portugal was able it would exercise similar influence on FRETILIN. The Indonesians, however, are clearly sceptical about the degree of influence which Lisbon can bring to bear.
  3. Malik and Melo Antunes discussed the problem of the 23 Portuguese captured by UDT. Malik had indicated that Indonesia would use its good offices for their return but inquired how arrangements could be made to do this. It would be necessary to establish a time and place to return the prisoners. According to Sosrowardojo, Melo Antunes could offer no suggestion in this regard and I think it can be inferred that no arrangement was reached on this question.
  4. The question of Timorese refugees who have fled to West Timor presented a problem which also was apparently left unsolved at the Rome talks. Sosrowardojo said Malik had indicated that Indonesia would like to see their return arranged to East Timor, since they represented a burden on Indonesia, but no arrangement was reached. Sosrowardojo offered the comment that he did not see how the refugees could be sent back to Portuguese Timor without an escort, or as he phrased it, 'a police escort', nor was it likely that they could remain there peacefully without some form of protection.
  5. Sosrowardojo said that full agreement had been reached between Malik and Melo Antunes on the need for the closest possible future liaison between the Indonesian and Portuguese Governments. Both parties agreed that it was in their own interest to avoid further United Nations resolutions on Portuguese Timor. Although the United Nations was already seized of the problem, Indonesia and Portugal (and they hoped friendly nations) would do their utmost to minimise further United Nations discussion in order to avoid a situation where the General Assembly or any other United Nations body made recommendations as to the future conduct of affairs in Timor.
  6. Sosrowardojo's reactions suggest that the Indonesians regard the Rome talks as a success from their point of view. The Memorandum affirms Portuguese sovereignty and makes appropriate noises with respect to decolonisation and self determination, but it also recognises the legitimate interest of Indonesia.It puts Indonesia's good intentions on international record, whilst offering a formula for discussion between Portugal and the political parties in East Timor which Indonesia will now hope to influence not only by pressure on UDT and APODETI but also by means of the close liaison which it expects to develop with the Portuguese Government.4


[NAA: Al0463, 801/13/11/1, xvi]