The Russian Ambassador to the Secretary of State .
Washington, D. C. , December 4, 1905 .
While acceding to Russia’s proposal to participate in a second peace conference at The Hague, the Government of Switzerland has stated in its reply to the Russian invitation “that all questions bearing upon the revision of the Geneva Conference form the object of a special conference, the programme of which has been already accepted by the powers and which, as soon as circumstances allow, will be called by [Page 1535] the Federal Government, the latter having been ‘commissioned’ to this effect by The Hague Conference of 1899.”
It will be remembered that on January 20, 1905, Switzerland accepted President Roosevelt’s invitation to a peace conference unconditionally, and without any restriction as to the revision of the Geneva Conference.
A careful examination of the respective proceedings at the First Peace Conference prove, moreover, that Switzerland did in no wise receive on this occasion the alleged “commission” (mandate). It has even been expressly stated by the Swiss delegate “that his Government possesses no exclusive right to the initiative of calling the said conference.”
But though not granting to Switzerland the alleged monopoly, The Hague Peace Conference, which at that time did not intend to reassemble, had expressed the wish that the revision of the Geneva articles should take place through the instrumentality of Switzerland without much delay. This last stipulation the Federal Government has, however, utterly failed to comply with; for though invitations to the said conference were issued soon after the closing of The Hague Conference, and although all governments had notified their readiness to participate in it, the actual convocation of the conference has been repeatedly and arbitrarily postponed by the Swiss Government under various pretenses, and even in its present reply to the Russian proposal it fails to fix a definite term for its final assembling.
Under these circumstances, the attitude of the Swiss Government is hardly justifiable, especially in view of the fact that the revision of the Geneva Conference is closely connected with various questions that will be under consideration at the next universal peace conference and that a speedy unification of the now existing three separate conventions bearing upon the wounded is indispensable from a practical point of view.
The Russian Government therefore deem it essential that the great powers, before adopting a definite programme for the Second Peace Conference, should agree, after a confidential exchange of views, upon the four following points:
- Is it advisable to combine the revision of the Geneva Conference with the assembling of the Second Hague Conference? The latter alone could pass a single act containing all regulations bearing upon the wounded. In that case the number of its delegates has to be increased by representatives of the medical world, as well as of the Reel Cross societies, who could, however, form a subcommission of the conference.
- Or shall, on the contrary, the privilege of calling a separate conference for the revision of the Geneva articles be recognized as belonging to the Swiss Government, which, together with Turkey and China, has refused to ratify one of The Hague conventions?
- If this latter view prevails do the great powers deem it possible to take a collective step to induce the Swiss Government to fix in the nearest possible future a definite term for the assembling of the proposed conference?
- If Switzerland is entitled to call a separate conference for the revision of the Geneva articles, shall this conference also consider the application of the stipulations of the Geneva Conference during war [Page 1536] on sea, basing itself upon the experience gained during the recent war, or shall this question rather form the object of the universal peace conference at The Hague?
It must be noted, however, that in the latter case the peace conference would have to deliberate upon the application during war on sea of regulations which have been recognized by all governments as obsolete and unsatisfactory.