43 Cablegram to Canberra

Lisbon, 7 October 1974

O.LB439 SECRET ROUTINE

Timor

I had a useful and fairly frank exchange of views with the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Campinos) today.

  1. After developing the theme of the mutuality of our interests in a number of fields I turned the conversation to decolonisation in Nepal and Timor in particular. I said I understood there had been contacts between the Portuguese and Indonesian Governments on the future of Timor and we welcomed this. We also wanted to keep in close touch with the Portuguese Government on this question. I asked Campinos for his views on Timor.
  2. Campinos replied that whilst the Portuguese Government welcomed the interest and advice of friendly governments such as the Australian and Indonesian, it was important to remember that Timor was a Portuguese problem. Portugal's principal objective was to ensure that the Timorese were given the opportunity for a genuine act of free choice. The Portuguese Government would not welcome interference by Indonesia or anyone else. Although some sections of the Timorese community seemed to favour incorporation into Indonesia, there was also considerable opposition in Timor to this. There were religious and cultural differences. Ma[n]y Timorese were Christians and had absorbed Western cultural values. He cited the three options open to Timor and said that the choice was a matter for the Timorese.
  3. I asked Campinos about their talks with the Indonesians and about prospects for establishing diplomatic relations. On the latter point he said that nothing was settled. A senior Indonesian official (unnamed) would visit Lisbon shortly to discuss the matter, but the visit would be kept secret. On the first point, their talks so far had provided an opportunity to explain Portuguese thinking (presumably on the lines indicated above).
  4. Campinos said they had noted statements made in Jakarta after Mr Whitlam's visit and asked me for our assessment of the Indonesian position.
    I said it was possible to detect differences in the views of Indonesian leaders on Timor but Indonesia did share a common concern with Australia that Timor should not become an area of political instability in the region. President Suharto also shares our view that an act of self determination in Timor would have to be internationally acceptable.
  5. Campinos asked me about Australia's attitude. I said we were on common ground on the self-determination issue. Public opinion in Australia would react adversely to any suggestion of a 'deal' being arranged over the heads of the Timorese. Of the various options independence would be economically doubtful and carried political dangers. Association with Portugal meant a continued economic burden for Lisbon. We therefore considered that incorporation into Indonesia was probably in the best interests of all concerned and we would therefore welcome any such decision by the Timorese. But I stressed that the decision would have to be a genuine act of friendship.1

[matter omitted]

Comment

You will note that there are significant difference[s] both in tone and content, between Campinos' views as outlined above and his talks with Indonesian officials as reported by Furlonger. At no stage did he indicate that he saw any virtue (on the contrary) in incorporation with Indonesia. The stress was on the point that it was a Portuguese problem and equally clear that he did not want any interference by Jakarta; even on the question of diplomatic relations 'nothing was decided'.

  1. Despite his initial fairly hard line, Campinos was very agreeable to me personally and I think sincere in his professions of wanting a good relationship with Australia. But he is clearly suspicious of Indonesian motives and it is equally clear that there is considerably less understanding between Lisbon and Jakarta than Harry Tjan would have us believe.
  2. We should also bear in mind that as Deputy Leader of the Socialist Party and a protegee of Soares, Campinos's views are likely to carry considerable weight when framing Portuguese policy.

COOPER

[NAA: A10463, 801113/1111, iii]