361 Cablegram to Canberra

New York, 7 December 1975


Portuguese Timor: United Nations

Ref 0.UN46751

As you indicated in our last telecon,2 we shall no doubt have to play the next round of developments here by ear guided by any new Ministerial statements and by instructions which you may be preparing with understandably higher priority for Jakarta and Lisbon.

  1. As you know we are locked into a situation in the Fourth Committee and the General Assembly which must have some outcome in the next few days and we could thereafter face new consideration of Timor in the Committee of Twenty-Four and/or the Security Council.
  2. The position reached late Saturday night New York time was that the Draft Resolution3 with the amendments negotiated ad referendum on Friday with Mozambique and others had been agreed by Jakarta, and the Secretariat informed, just before midnight following extended discussions between Sani, the Secretariat and ourselves.4 On the basis of these discussions Sani had assured Jakarta that the new final preambular paragraph5 could not have the effect of precluding Timor's integration into Indonesia as a result of self-determination, and indeed Mozambique had said so in our consultations. The Mozambique Deputy Foreign Minister had earlier signified his agreement to the amended draft.
  3. Sani maintains that it was only after he left his office in the early hours of this morning 7 December that he first heard on the radio news of the Indonesian movement into Dili.
  4. In any event, the fact that the revised Draft Resolution dated 6 December will be available tomorrow will help fill a vacuum and has the advantage of registering the position genuinely reached by the co-sponsors and others before the Indonesian move.
  5. There was some early optimism in telephone consultations today that the draft might still survive especially because of its usefulness in committing Indonesia to self-determination and continuing United Nations involvement. We have encouraged this line of thinking amongst the Africans and Sani was prepared today to maintain Indonesia's co-sponsorship.
  6. It has become clear in the course of the day, however, that the Africans and some of the communists will try to insist as a minimum on demanding Indonesia's withdrawal pretty well immediately. This will then take us into substantive questions of whether Indonesia proposes to occupy Dili and the rest of Portuguese Timor until such time as a United Nations presence, a special mission, or arrangements for UN supervision of an act of self-determination have been worked out. It raises the question also of whether the Indonesians will hand over to the Portuguese again or join with them in some form of interim shared administration. We have had no indication today of the Portuguese reaction. We can look to the Indian Ambassador for support in opposing any facile African call for a simple return to the status quo ante Saturday.
  7. An immediate question also arises as to Indonesia's willingness to have a United Nations mission visit the territory and if so, how soon and on what terms. As indicated below, we believe there could be a call for the Secretary-General to visit the territory himself or to arrange a special mission and Mozambique was in fact pressing for this in negotiations on the Draft Resolution on Friday. The changes made to operative paragraph 46 of the Draft Resolution reflected some concessions to Mozambique's proposals.
  8. Sani has recommended to Jakarta that the Indonesian Government issue a statement to be available by Monday morning New York time clearly reaffirming its intention to abide by a genuine process of self-determination but says he has no views or instructions concerning a possible Indonesian withdrawal from Dili or any consequent steps.
  9. Immediate outlook as of Sunday evening New York time is that a somewhat disorientated group of co-sponsors will meet first thing Monday morning before what had been scheduled as the last meeting of the Fourth Committee. Plenary had been scheduled to meet tomorrow afternoon after the closing of the Fourth Committee to take up all that Committee's reports including the Draft Resolution on the Portuguese territories.
  10. At this stage we cannot tell you what the outcome will be. The possibilities we face include amendments to the revised Draft Resolution, especially to condemn Indonesia's intervention or call for immediate Indonesian withdrawal and to provide for an urgent mission to the territory possibly by the Secretary-General. The Africans may, however, be luke-warm about the latter because of the failure of the recent missions by the Secretary-General to settle the Spanish Sahara dispute. It is also possible that any decision by the Fourth Committee (and therefore by Plenary) on Portuguese Timor could be postponed tomorrow with a view to allowing for a hearing of Horta (and any APODETI/UDT petitioners who might arrive) by the Fourth Committee.
  11. Fortunately the only request for a hearing cabled by Horta so far has been to the Committee of Twenty-Four. On the other hand, if he cables the Secretary-General without specifying the body he wishes to petition, the matter would be referred automatically to the Fourth Committee. Any action which could be taken in Lisbon therefore to ensure that Horta does not petition the Fourth Committee, and in any event to delay his arrival in New York, would be most helpful. Sani is trying to ensure that any cables from the pro-Indonesian parties are addressed to the Committee of Twenty-Four and not to the Fourth Committee.
  12. We feel we would have a reasonable chance of delaying any hearings by the Committee of Twenty-Four until after the adjournment or closure of the General Assembly.
  13. A reference to the Security Council is perhaps a less likely development in the early part of the week although it cannot be discounted. If a move is made in the Council it will at least be helpful to us that the United Kingdom has the presidency in December. Salim takes over in January. At this stage, however, we would hope that the fact that developments in Angola have not been brought before the Council would minimise the chances of the Council meeting on Timor.

[NAA: Al838, 906/30/14/3, i]