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The Lisbon Appointment, or Reedman Appointment, was the decision in 1965 by Britain’s self-governing colony in Rhodesia[n 1] to open its own diplomatic mission in the Portuguese capital of Lisbon, with Harry Reedman at its head as an accredited representative. Rhodesia intended for this mission to operate independently from Britain’s embassy in Lisbon. Whitehall refused to endorse this when asked on 9 June, but Rhodesia continued nonetheless, officially confirming Reedman’s appointment 17 days later. The British government attempted to block this unilateral act—Rhodesia’s first—for months afterwards, but these efforts proved fruitless. Portugal’s Foreign Ministry accepted Reedman’s letter of accreditation in September, officially recognising him as “Chief of the Rhodesian Mission”. The affair came amidst the larger dispute between Whitehall and Salisbury regarding the terms under which Rhodesia could be granted sovereign independence. Rhodesia’s mostly white government insisted that statehood should come under the constitution introduced with Britain’s approval in 1961, while Whitehall insisted that, per its recent change in policy, there could be no independence before majority rule, and black politicians would have to run the country before it could be fully independent. The Rhodesian government’s stance on this matter caused it to become isolated within the Commonwealth of Nations, which from 1964 excluded it from most of its internal bodies, while the Rhodesian military became unofficially embargoed by its established British and American suppliers. Rhodesia’s staunch opposition to immediate black rule and its disillusionment regarding Britain propelled it towards Portugal, which governed Angola and Mozambique, territories respectively to the west and east of Rhodesia. Hoping to find new arms suppliers in continental Europe, the Rhodesian government informed Britain of its intent to open an independent mission in Lisbon in June 1965. The legitimacy of this action was disputed. Rhodesia had run itself as a self-governing colony since 1923, but ultimate responsibility for foreign affairs remained with Britain. In their attempt to prove that an independent Lisbon mission was legal, the Rhodesians presented an argument based on previous British legislation conferring on the colonial government the right to appoint its own “diplomatic agents, or consular or trade representatives, in countries which are willing to receive them”.[1] The British counter-argued that ultimate purview over Rhodesian foreign affairs still lay with Whitehall , so Rhodesian appointments without prior British assent were illegal. They proposed that Reedman be integrated into the British Embassy in Lisbon as a Rhodesian consul, but Rhodesia refused to accept a lesser post for Reedman than that enjoyed by the independent Rhodesian representatives in Pretoria, South Africa, and Lourenço Marques, Mozambique. Following months of abortive Anglo-Rhodesian talks and unsuccessful attempts by Britain to deter Portugal diplomatically, Reedman travelled to Lisbon in September 1965 to take up his post at the head of an independent Rhodesian mission. The Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which insisted it was neutral regarding Rhodesia, accepted his letter of accreditation, much to Whitehall’s consternation, though Lisbon was careful to avoid provoking Britain, omitting the word “diplomatic” from the titles given to both Reedman and his mission. The Rhodesians still regarded themselves as victorious, saying they had set out to gain an independent diplomatic representative in Lisbon, and now had one. Historian J. R. T. Wood writes that this was “Rhodesia’s first independent and indeed unilateral act – the veritable straw in the wind.”[1] Less than two months after Reedman’s investiture, Salisbury went one further, unilaterally declaring independence from Britain on 11 November 1965.< /p>

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