Last night Foreign Minister Alexander Downer was trying to phone the Prime Minister of East Timor, Dr Alkatiri, insisting that he be invited to come to Dili today (Thursday) to sign an agreement on the Greater Sunrise gas field in the Timor Sea.

Alkatiri had promised to sign as soon as he had Cabinet approval. Downer was really mad because he doesn’t have Alkatiri’s phone number and Alkatiri won’t give it to him because he thinks, not unreasonably, that Downer is a goose.

Alkatiri’s staffers then passed on 2 messages to one of Downer’s officials:

1) Alkatiri would be happy to receive phone calls from Howard but not Downer.

2) That Downer should learn to trust the Timorese people. Downer even had his Ambassador to ET suggest to Alkatiri that he should move his Cabinet meeting forward to accommodate Downer’s travel plans… You can imagine how this was received.

With respect to the negotiations over the Timor Sea, Downer has been described as “belligerent and aggressive”. Yesterday in Parliament, opposition MPs decried the fact that he “is barely on speaking terms with the Prime Minister of our nearest neighbor in the region” and prone to tantrums. Well that we all know, it was reported in the Oz (13 December).

My exclusive leak to you is a copy of the transcript of the (in)famous 27 November meeting between Downer and Mari Alkatiri, in which (particularly towards the end) Downer comes off the paper sounding like a right pompous colonialist git…

Daphne Diplomat, your DFAT insider

Read the full transcript here.

CRIKEY: Expect the quality papers to follow this one up tomorrow and Labor should fly with it too. Crikey has already recorded an interview with the BBC on this exclusive. The angle is that it provides further proof that Downer and therefore Australia were bullying East Timor big time.

Peter Fray

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