On 26 July 1914, the Austro-Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Leopold Count Berchtold (pictured), sent a private telegram to his Ambassadors in Rome and Berlin. The telegram outlines Italian foreign policy in the event of an Austro-Hungarian occupation of Serbia. In the summer of 1914, Austria-Hungary, Italy and Germany were all members of the Triple Alliance.
Count Berchtold to the Imperial and Royal Ambassadors in Rome (von Merey) and in Berlin (Szogyeny). Vienna, 26 July 1914.
- Herr von Merey in Rome.
- Count Szogyeny in Berlin.
The Italian ambassador came to the [Italian] Ministry of Foreign Affairs today, and referring to the conflict between the Monarchy and Servia, declared that the Royal Italian government would, in case this conflict brought about a warlike complication, which would lead to the occupation of Serbian territory, even if it were but temporary, claim its right of compensation, based upon Article VII of the Triple Alliance Treaty. Moreover, the Royal Italian government believes that the same article of the Treaty compels us to come to an understanding before occupying any portion of Serbian territory.
In every other respect, the Royal Italian government will, in an eventual war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia, observe a friendly attitude in perfect accord with its duties as an ally.
The above is for your Excellency’s strictly private information. I must add that I have not yet had an opportunity to explain our point of view to the Duke of Avarna [the Italian Ambassador to Austria-Hungary] with regard to the declaration contained in the above.
As it is uncertain up to the present, whether we will decide for a temporary occupation and to what extent, I consider it unnecessary to open a discussion on the subject just now, and will do my best to postpone it.
Your Excellency will seek an opportunity for expressing my pleasure and satisfaction that he should at this early period have announced the friendly attitude of Italy in the eventuality of a war.
Your Excellency will communicate the above in strict privacy to [German Minister of Foreign Affairs] Herr von Jagow, and will remark to him that the early announcement that Italy will observe a friendly attitude, conform to its duties as an ally, and has given me sincere satisfaction.
Your Excellency will furthermore remark that I have not, as yet, had an opportunity of communicating our point of view with regard to Article VII in its Italian interpretation to the Duke of Avarna. The German government already knows that in a certain sense we differ from the Italian interpretation. We should not like to bring about a controversy on this subject just now, but will avoid useless explanations, which might lead to disagreement. We will on the contrary call the Italian government’s attention to the fact, that as we do not plan the occupation of Serbian territory—transitory war operations cannot be regarded in the light of even temporary occupation—the compensation question need not be taken into consideration even from the Italian point of view.
As it is uncertain up to the present whether we will decide for a temporary occupation and to what extent, I consider it unnecessary to open a discussion on the subject just now and will do my best to postpone it.
Source: 1919 Austro-Hungarian Red Book, with minor edits.