Austro-Hungarian Red Book: Berchtold to Giesl, 20 July 1914

On 20 July 1914, the Austro-Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs Count Leopold Berchtold , having sent a telegram detailing the content of the ultimatum to Serbia to the Austro-Hungarian Amdassador to Serbia Wladimir Giesl von Gieslingen (pictured), sent a letter. In his letter to Giesl, Berchtold details the steps to be taken once the ultimatum is received by Serbian authorities.

Baron von Giesl

Baron von Giesl

Letter from Count Berchtold to Baron von Giesl. Vienna, 20 July 1914.

I have the honour to send your Excellency a few instructions with regard to the presentation of our demands to the Servian government, which the duties of your office do not comprise.

The demands are the very least we can ask, if our intolerable relations with Servia are to be placed on a better footing. We must moreover insist that the decision of the Servian government be communicated within the term of 48 hours and we could not on any account consent to a prolongation of the term, should the Servian government use the pretext that it wishes to judge the consequences that some of our demands might have.

We cannot enter into negotiations with Servia with regard to our demands, and cannot be satisfied with anything less than their unconditional acceptance within the stated term; otherwise we should be obliged to draw further consequences.

Should your Excellency be asked what further steps the Imperial and Royal government will undertake after the diplomatic relations have been broken off, you will declare that you have no information on the subject.

On your own initiative and without stating that you have instructions to that effect, you can say that the hostile attitude of the kingdom has, during the last few years, twice forced us to incur heavy expenses for military measures and that, should this again be the case, we should certainly make the Servian government responsible for the costs of such measures.

I must beg your Excellency to avoid discussing the contents of the note and the interpretation of the single points and should Herr Pasic [the Serbian Prime Minister] insist, you will declare that you have no authority to discuss the subject further, but must demand the acceptance pure et simple of the conditions. By word of mouth your Excellency will also ask Herr Pasic to let you have the Servian translation of the declaration, as published in the official gazette and the Servian text of the army-order, so that you may be certain that the translation is correct.

The telegram No. 67 of the 13th, and the private decree of November 28th 1912, No. 80,215 mentioned therein, give you the exact instructions of what you are to do in case diplomatic relations are broken off.

As soon as the term of 48 hours from the time of the presentation has expired without the announcement of the acceptance, your Excellency would in a note inform the Servian government that the stipulated term being over, you would, in accordance with your instructions, leave Servia with the members of the legation and would entrust our country-people and our interests in Servia to… [missing in the original] at the same time leaving the secretary of the chancery behind, who would be appointed to the… [missing in the original] in Belgrade.

After this our diplomatic relations might be considered as broken off.

After having carried out all the instructions contained in the decree No. 80,215 of the 28th November 1912, your Excellency will cross to Semlin with all the members of the legation.

Moreover, I beg your Excellency to inform me by ciphered telegram from Belgrade of the fact that Servia refuses to comply with our demands, or that the stipulated term has expired. At the same time one of your gentlemen must be sent to Semlin, so that he can telegraph a direct message in claris [e.i. not in code].

It might perhaps be arranged that the gentleman in question could go to Semlin some time before, and could send his telegram on telegraphic notice from your Excellency.


Source: 1919 Austro-Hungarian Red Book, with minor edits


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