On 20 July 1914, the Autro-Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs Leopold Count Berchtold (pictured) sent a strictly private telegram to the Austro-Hungarian Ambassador in Rome Herr Kajetan von Merey. In his message, the second of the day addressed to Merey, Berchtold instructs the Ambassador on the steps to take to inform the Italian government of Austria-Hungary’s intentions towards Serbia.
Count Berchtold to Herr von Merey in Rome. Vienna, 20 July 1914.
According to your telegram, you will meet the Marquis di San Giuliano [the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs] tomorrow. Your Excellency might hold something like the following discourse. You have as yet received no precise information on the results of the inquiry in Sarajevo, nor on the steps we intend to take in Belgrade in consequence. But I had given you to understand that there was sufficient material, and that Servian plotting which had been carried on for years would compel us to use very serious language in Belgrade. Your Excellency had been instructed to communicate this to the Marquis di San Giuliano and to add that while we were taking these steps in Belgrade, we considered a peaceful solution of the affair as quite possible. That at any rate we were convinced that in obtaining clarity in our relations with Servia, we might count upon the loyalty of Italy and upon its faith as an ally. The Marquis di San Giuliano, in a just appreciation of the international situation, repeatedly told you that what Italy wanted was a strong Austria-Hungary, and he said as much to me in Abbazia. It is absolutely necessary to clear up the dubious circumstances in Servia, if the present situation of the monarchy is to be maintained, as well as the present strength of the Triple Alliance, on whose strength the peace of Europe and its equilibrium depends. At the present moment Italy’s interests demand that it should openly side with us. It is therefore most important that the minister should in good time get Italian public opinion inspired to support the Triple Alliance and adhere to it when the news of our démarche [measures] in Belgrade reaches the Italian government.
In the course of the discussion, which might eventually follow, your Excellency might express the following opinion as your own, that should peaceable means fail, the Vienna cabinet was far from thinking of a war with a view to conquest, or the annexation of any part of Servia. Perhaps this is an opportunity for setting right the antagonistic report of the Temps [Paris based newspaper] that we were about to take the Loveen by surprise. On the contrary we should be very much obliged to the Italian government, if it would use its influence in Cettinje and induce Montenegro, whose attitude is very different from that of Servia and where bombs exported from Servia have already played a part, to keep quite quiet, while we continue to converse with Belgrade.
Source: 1919 Austro-Hungarian Red Book, with minor edits.