File No. 763.72119/1630
The Special Agent at Corfu ( Dodge) to the Secretary of State
[Received April 29.]
Sir: I have the honor to report the following information which was given to me to-day by Mr. Pashitch, President of the Council and Minister for Foreign Affairs, regarding the negotiations which are now taking place with a view to reaching an understanding between Italy and the subject nationalities of Austria-Hungary, and especially the Yugo-Slavs.
During the last visit to London of the Italian Premier, Signor Orlando, he had an interview at his request with Dr. Ante Trumbitch, president of the Yugo-Slav Committee, lasting over two hours (despatch No. 46 of February 8, page 31). The Italian Ambassador and military attaché were present at this interview and at its close the Italian Premier invited Doctor Trumbitch to visit him in Rome. [Page 798] The views expressed during the interview allowed of hopes that an understanding might be reached between Italy and the Yugo-Slavs and accordingly not long afterwards Signor Torre, an Italian deputy, went to London and there began a series of conferences with Doctor Trumbitch. Signor Torre represented an Italian committee “for an understanding with the subject nationalities of Austria-Hungary” and the conferences, although in no way official or binding to the Italian or Serbian Governments, were held with their knowledge and approval. They lasted for about a week at the end of which an agreement was signed by Doctor Trumbitch and Signor Torre, which Mr. Pashitch considered to be extremely important and which he stated was substantially as follows:
- In determining the future boundaries between Italy and the Yugo-Slav nationalities, the principle of nationalities is to be followed and not the treaty between Italy and the Allies of April 26, 1915. In determining these boundaries however, regard is to be paid to Italy’s proper protection by giving to her certain strategic points.
- Foci of Italian population remaining in “Yugo-Slavia” and, vice-versa, foci of Yugo-Slav population remaining in Italy are to have certain rights guaranteed to them, as the use of their native language, special schools where their children can be taught in this language, etc.
- All questions of conflicting interests shall be treated in a spirit of mutual sacrifice and with a desire to arrive at an understanding.
Mr. Pashitch stated that the next step would be the holding in Rome early next month of a conference at which there would be present two representatives of each of the subject races of Austria-Hungary, representatives of the Italian Parliament, and representatives of the Skupshtina who would include one representative of each one of the party groups. The procedure to be followed by this conference had not yet been settled but probably the agreement signed by Doctor Trumbitch and Signor Torre would be communicated and discussed by it and then submitted by the conference to the Serbian and Italian Governments with a request that some agreement based upon it should be entered into between them.
Mr. Pashitch believed that Signor Orlando and the other members of the Italian Cabinet would be ready to enter into an agreement on the basis of the Trumbitch-Torre memorandum. He thought that Baron Sonnino was less inclined to it perhaps but would allow himself to accept it. The conference and the possible agreement would have a profound effect in Austria-Hungary where already the first knowledge of the London conferences had produced a considerable effect.[Page 799]
Mr. Pashitch stated that he considered that the great change in the views of the Italian Government towards the Yugo-Slavs was in great part owing to President Wilson’s expressions touching the principle of nationalities: the Italian Government realized that at the peace conference at the close of the war, the whole influence of the United States would oppose the execution of the Italian treaty of April 26, 1915, which violated the principle of nationalities so grossly. Accordingly Italy preferred to come voluntarily to an agreement with the Yugo-Slavs now if possible, rather than possibly later to be forced to make renunciations to them.
The conciliatory disposition shown regarding a Yugo-Slav understanding seems also to be facilitating the decision of another question of great importance to the Serbian Government, namely the release by Italy of some 20,000 Yugo-Slav prisoners, most of whom are said to be anxious to fight in the Serbian Army (despatches Nos. 24, of November 7, 1917, p. 2, and 40, of January 8, 1918, p. 61). Mr. Pashitch states that the Italian Government now seems disposed to take this matter into more favorable consideration.
I have [etc.]