379 Cablegram to New York

Canberra, 16 December 1975


Portuguese Timor: Security Council1

Ref. 0.UN4754, 0.UN47612

We should be glad if you would speak early in the Security Council proceedings and before a draft resolution firms up. Tuesday 16 December New York time would seem to be suitable.

  1. In addressing the Security Council, you should speak in low key, bearing in mind the guidelines set out below, which have been approved by Ministers:
    1. The Security Council proceedings provide the first occasion on which the new Australian Government has to show how it regards its relationship with Indonesia. We know that Indonesia is watching closely.
    2. The attitudes on Portuguese Timor which we expressed in the General Assembly brought out vividly our disapproval of the use of force. Given the meekness of others, ours was a courageous as well as principled stance.
    3. We can now afford to be somewhat less harsh with Indonesia and to do so will improve our relationship with Indonesia.
    The above are for your information.
  2. This suggests that in our intervention before the Security Council we should concentrate [more] on the present and the future than on the past. We should, therefore, not condemn Indonesia but refer merely to our view on the use of force which [w]as expressed in the General Assembly. We support a cease fire (which is acceptable to Indonesia): in order to avoid a return to chaos, we support the withdrawal of Indonesian 'volunteers' once circumstances on the ground permit (as proposed by Japan). We should say that the main question now is to establish conditions under which a free choice can be made by the people of Portuguese Timor (which is Indonesia's stated objective) and we can support the despatch of some sort of United Nations mission to Timor (which is also acceptable to Indonesia). Our own preference remains for a visit by a representative of the Secretary General.
  3. You should also draw as you think required on the points mentioned in our O.CH299252, paragraphs 9 (repeat 9) to 12.3
  4. As to the Malaysian idea that Portugal should seek assistance from regional countries to discharge its responsibilities as the administering power, Ministers think for your own information that it has advantages and disadvantage:
    The idea in origin is an Indonesian one. It is consistent with Liberal Party policy, before the election, of regional involvement in the search for a solution to the problem of Portuguese Timor. It would help implement the Government's policy of building up further relations with ASEAN countries. To approve it would respond to the wish expressed by the Australian media that we should be more involved.
    Involvement as suggested by Malaysia will undoubtedly mean that we will be called up[on] to specifically endorse a less than genuine process of self-determination. If we do not do so, we will damage our relations with Indonesia and other ASEAN countries.
  5. Ministers, therefore, conclude that we should go along with the Malaysian suggestion in paragraph 13 (1) of your O.UN4751,4 but in general and guarded terms, for instance, by indicating that we are interested in the Malaysian suggestion and await to see how it is evolved if it finds the approval of the Security Council.
  6. The Minister will wish to make a statement on Timor once you have spoken in the Security Council. We should be glad, therefore, if, as soon as you have spoken, you would advise the Department by immediate telegram. We should also be grateful for early advice of the likely timing of your statement.

[NAA: A1838, 3038113/9/1/1, i]