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Italo-Turkish War - Reaction of Other States

Throughout the early months of the campaign Austria had shown herself singularly hostile to Italy. An Italophobe party, which found strong supporters in exalted circles in Vienna, led by the Chief of the Austrian General Staff, Baron Conrad von Hotzen- dorf, asserted in no veiled language that the moment had come to attack Italy, who was daily growing stronger, and at the first opportunity would fall upon the Dual Monarchy. The Austrian Press welcomed the news of Italian difficulties, and gave wide publicity to exaggerated reports emanating from Turkish quarters. Count Aehrenthal, unwilling to precipitate a conflict with Italy at this time, when the Balkan problem had not been settled and a possible pathway to Salonika still lay open, was able to bring about the temporary retirement of General Conrad, but not before extensive military preparations had been effected by Austria along her Italian boundary, which caused deep annoyance to the Italians.

The German Press was even more bitter. The Italian expedition was treated as an "act of piracy," and German statesmen were especially resentful that Italy as a member of the Triple Alliance should have dared to endanger the position of predominance which Germany had acquired in the Ottoman Empire.

Of all the European nations France had received with the most fair-minded equanimity the news of the Italian advance into Libya. During the early days of the campaign, notwithstanding the efforts of the politico-financial Press to discredit the Italian enterprise, the majority of the French people looked upon the Tripolitan venture as a sequel to their own Moroccan campaign. No untoward incident had marred the friendly relations of the two countries, when, on January 16, 1912, the Italian cruiser Agordat stopped the French mail packet Carthage, bound for Tunis, and took it into Cagliari, the Sardinian port, on the pretext that it was carrying aeroplanes destined for the enemy.

This action on the part of the Italian authorities aroused the anger of the French, who demanded the immediate release of the detained vessel, and public opinion was united in its support of the most energetic measures that the Government might deem necessary to take. Two days later, when the anti-Italian agitation was at its height, news reached Paris that another French steamer, the Ma- nouba, also bound for Tunis, had been taken, in a similar manner, into custody by the Italians on the ground that 29 Turkish passengers, who were travelling as doctors and nurses of the Turkish Red Crescent, were in reality Turkish army officials. The French believed this second incident to be a direct affront to their national dignity. The Government peremptorily demanded the immediate release of the steamers. On January 20 the Carthage and Manouba were allowed to proceed. The next day the French Government required the release of the 29 Turkish officials. M. Poincare, then Premier and Minister for Foreign Affairs, speaking in the Chamber, in answer to a number of violent questions regarding the incident, used what may be termed extremely firm, if not unfriendly, language towards Italy. A week later the affair was liquidated. Italy was compelled to hand over the Turkish passengers of the Manouba to the French authorities, while it was agreed by both parties to refer the whole matter to The Hague Tribunal.

This regrettable incident once again, at a critical moment, disturbed Franco-Italian relations when they seemed on the eve of becoming friendly. In Italy the conviction was wide-spread that the Italians had been browbeaten by the French, while in France, what seemed to the French the high-handed policy of Italy in the Mediterranean was keenly resented.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:28:15 ZULU