Austro-Hungarian Red Book: Herr von Merey to Count Berchtold, 26 July 1914

On 26 July 1914, the Austro-Hungarian Ambassador to Italy, Kajetan von Merey (pictured), sent a coded confidential telegram to the Austro-Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Leopold Count Berchtold. In his telegram, von Merey informs Berchtold of the Italian government’s reaction to the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum to Serbia.

Kajetan von Merey

Kajetan von Merey

Herr von Merey to Count Berchtold. Rome, 26 July 1914.

Ciphered.—Confidential.

The secretary of the [Italian] Minister of Foreign Affairs paid me a visit in the sick-room today, to enquire after my health in the name of the minister.

An unofficial discussion on our conflict with Servia followed. My visitor, who no doubt did but reflect the opinion of his boss, harped on the tone of our note, which would have been unacceptable to every State; on the fact that the note was not sooner communicated to the Powers, so that they had no obligations, and that it was subsequently communicated to give them an opportunity of interfering, which was a contradiction of the assertion that the whole affair concerned no one but Servia and us. If that was so, what was the communication to the Signatory Powers for? We could surely not expect Italy, who had been neither asked nor informed, to draw its sword for us in the eventuality that the conflict became serious. If we should decide for temporary or permanent occupation in Servia, there could not be any doubts that Italy had a right to compensations.

I disputed all these arguments seriously, and in the course of the discussion made the regrettable discovery, which did not however surprise me, that Signor Biancheri founded his arguments on a perfect understanding between Rome and Berlin, on all three points, the criticisms on the form of our note, the delay in sending it to the Powers, and, above all, the question of compensations. (See the Daily report of 20 July of the conversation between your Excellency and [the German Ambassador to Austria-Hungary Herr von Tschirschky).

I am convinced that Italy will approach us with propositions of mediation or compensation. It is my belief that we should decline all such offers, take no engagements and let government and press raise whatever cry they like. The more resolved and inexorable we show ourselves, the more we will gain in the eyes of Italy.

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

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