351 Cablegram to Canberra

Lisbon, 29 November 1975


Portuguese Timor

I spoke to the Foreign Ministry (Cruz) this morning about the latest developments in Timor, in particular the position of the Portuguese Government in relation to FRETILIN's UDI.

  1. It is at this stage not correct to speak of a 'Portuguese Government' position as the Indonesian Ambassador has done (para 2 of O.JA3359).1 The Indonesian Ambassador's report was based on a conversation with Crespo yesterday who at that time was expressing no more than personal views. The National Decolonisation Committee (which decides policy on Timor) has not yet met to consider the matter, although Cruz had no doubt that the Committee would recognise the FRETILIN UDI.
  2. Cruz regarded the UDI as ruling out any possibility of talks. Their intention now was to refer the matter to the UN and the Foreign Ministry was simply waiting for authorisation from the Decolonisation Committee to do this. The Portuguese case would be that Portugal had tried to arrange talks between the parties, that their efforts had reached the point where all that had to be decided was the date and venue, but that these efforts had been frustrated by FRETILIN's decision to take matters into their own hands. Faced with a demand by FRETILIN to evacuate from Atauro, Portugal had no choice but to comply. (The intention is to evacuate 'immediately', Cruz said. They were also worried about their prisoners still in UDT hands.) Having failed in its efforts to get the parties to agree to a political solution, Portugal looked to the United Nations to deal with the problem since Portugal's position in Timor had become untenable.


  1. Cruz was unable to disguise his 'relief' at the tum of events. As he put it, 'the issue is now between FRETILIN and Indonesia' and it is already fairly clear (to the extent that Cruz reflects official thinking [)], that the Portuguese attitude is that thanks to FRETILIN, Portugal can now withdraw from Timor sooner than they had hoped. As has been previously foreshadowed, the time has now arrived when Portugal considers itself free to hand over the Timor problem to the United Nations.


[NAA: Al838, 49/2/1/1, viii]