455 Cablegram to Canberra

Jakarta, 30 May 1976

O.JA6916 SECRET AUSTEO IMMEDIATE

Timor: Dili Meeting

United States Embassy has just told us that Washington has decided that if Australia and Japan send representatives to the Dili meeting the United States will do likewise.1

  1. The United States Embassy said that if Japan attended and Australia did not, they would not repeat not go.
  2. The Japanese Embassy has told us Japan will attend if Australia and the United States go. The Japanese Ambassador apparently has discretion to decide what to do if only one of us sends a representative. (But since we are not going, the United States will follow suit and the Japanese will also decline.)
  3. For the Indonesians, the most important countries invited to Dili are the ASEAN, Australia, United States and Japan. We are now faced with a situation where our own decision on attendance will automatically carry two of the other key countries with us. We know from our conversations with them that the Indonesians are keenly aware of this. (They will also believe that our decision will have greatly influenced PNG, among others.)
  4. In your O.CH3609982 you have asked us to say to the Indonesians, in speaking of the future, that we regard the Dili meeting of 31 May as one step in the process of self-determination for the East Timorese. The Indonesians are likely to reply that they agree with us and that Australia should not tum its back on this single step in the process. They will say that, in not attending, Australia is pre-judging the self-determination process and that this Australian decision, which is likely to be highly publicised, will produce even greater problems with public opinion in Australia than a first hand report of the Dili meeting by an Australian representative. The latter would no doubt report the short comings of the self-determination process there but he may also see some positive features. The decision not to go at all would only serve to highlight the negative features. By not sending someone to the Dili meeting the Government wishes to avoid having to comment on what it thought of it. The Australian Government's public comment on the meeting will be clear in its decision not to observe it
  5. Particularly since we now know that we would be in good company with the United States, Japan and some of the ASEAN countries (the Western Europeans do not have a major interest in this issue and are largely influenced by nineteenth century rules of protocol and Portugal's membership of NATO) I would request that reconsideration be given to Australia's attendance at the Dili meeting.
  6. If however the decision not to go should stand I would propose to inform the Indonesians, Americans and Japanese without further delay. There no longer seems to be any point in holding back since the Americans and Japanese have linked their decision all too closely and all too publicly with our own.3

DAN

[NAA: A10005, TS202/1/l, ANNEX 3]