Letter: Massacre in Timor

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Sir: Rupert Cornwell's article "It is we who are to blame for the UN failure in East Timor" (7 September) implies that there is at least a selective morality to our foreign policy. More likely Realpolitik is paramount. We shall never know what advice Mr Cook is given by his officials, but we may infer probabilities.

The Association of South-East Asian Nations is not to be offended. It has previously behaved as a front for anti-Western rhetoric designed for domestic consumption by a group of authoritarian states. Its reluctance to criticise its members is well known.

Australia is keen to prevent too open a breach with Indonesia: there is the oil agreement over the East Timor gap to consider and very substantial Australian investment to safeguard.

It is a reasonable assumption that Indonesia will remain a military dictatorship and therefore a continuing market for arms which, if Britain does not supply them, assuredly some of our EU partners will.

Finally, the Indonesian economy will need to be rebuilt, offering substantial investment and trade opportunities.

Is it any wonder, then, that there is no suggestion that Mr Cook has even hinted that Britain would withdraw its contribution to the $5.9bn sanctioned by the Consultative Group on Indonesia?

Maybe the Foreign Office really believes that a distinction can be made between "the government" and "the military" in Indonesia. Even if their lack of understanding were not as profound as this, it would still be a useful line to take in support of present pusillanimous policy.


Loanhead, Midlothian