Australia's recognition of the Indonesian annexation of East Timor: The Timor Sea boundary negotiation nexus (1976-1978)

Kim McGrath

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review


This paper uses declassified diplomatic records to examine the background to Australia's decision to formally recognise Indonesia's annexation of East Timor, announced in a media statement by Australia's Foreign Minister, Andrew Peacock, on 20 January 1978. Peacock's statement linked the decision to recognise Indonesian sovereignty over East Tim or to Australia's ability to deal directly with the Indonesian government in relation to reuniting Timorese families and 'the rehabilitation of Timor'. However, a review of the diplomatic records and, most significantly, cabinet records concerning the decision, reveals that Peacock's announcement that Australia would no longer sustain 'public objection to the integration of East Timor into Indonesia,' was directly linked to Australia's intention to enter negotiations with Indonesia to complete the demarcation of the seabed boundary between Australia and East Timor. Logically, and according to international law, entering into seabed negotiations with Indonesia concerning waters south of East Timor, necessarily involved Australia recognising Indonesian sovereignty over East Timor.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTimor-Leste:
Subtitle of host publicationThe local, the regional and the global
EditorsSarah Smith, Antero B. da Silva, Nun Canas Mendes, Alarico da Costa Ximenes, Clinton Fernandes, Michael Leach
Place of PublicationTimor-Leste
PublisherTimor-Leste Studies Association
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)9780987593085
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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