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BELGIUM'S NEUTRALITY

GERMANY'S TEMPTATION RESISTED,

The Belgian Legation in London issued in October a copy of their Government’s Grey Book, containing the diplomatic correspondence relating to the war. This document corresponds to some extent to and supplements the English White Paper and the Russian Orange Eoak. The correspondence ranges from July 24 to August 29. Naturally, most of the document* cover ground that is already familiar, hot a number of new facts emerge, and coma of these are of considerable interest. For example, it is interesting to no to that Belgium took alarm very early in the crisis. The Austrian ultimatum was delivered to Rervia on July 24. On that very day tha Belgian Foreign Minister sent under cover to the Belgian Ministers in all the great capitals the following Note:-

The international situation is graves the eventuality of a conflict between several Powers cannot be omitted from the preoccupation of the King’s Government. ... All the measure* necessary to ensure the observation of her ißelgian) neutrality have, nevertheless, been taken by the Kind's Government. The Belgian army is mobilised, and take* its stand on the strategic position* chosen to ensure the defence of the country and the respect of its neutrality. The forts of Antwerp and of the Meuse are in a state of defence. This was an anticipatory Note, and its presentation to the various Governments wax to be withheld until the Brussels Government definitely released it. The actual order for mobilisation was not given till July 31. Two days before the Belgian army had been put on a “ strengthened peace footing.” —France Gives Her Pledge.— On July 51 the French Minister at Brussels waited on the Belgian Foreign Minister and gave him this assurance: No incursion of French troops will taka place into Belgium even if important forces should bo massed on the frontiers of your country. Franco would not like to have the responsibility of committing in regard to Belgium the first act of hostility. Instructions in this sense will be given to the French authorities. A more formal assurance was given by the French Minister in these terms:— I am authorised to declare that, in case of an international conflict, the Government of the Republic, as they have always declared, will respect the neutrality of Belgium. In the hypothetical case of that neutrality not being respected by another Power, the French Government, to safeguard their own defence, might be led to modify their attitude.

On July 31 the Chief of the Belgian Foreign Office (i.e., the Secretaire-General) had an important conversation with Her* Von Bulow, the German Minister at Brussels. He pointed out to the latter that, in the course of the controversy raised in 1911 by the introduction of the Dutch project for the fortification of the Scheldt, his predecessor (Herr Von Flotow) had assured the Belgian Government that, in the event of a, Franco-German war, Germany -would. not violate Belgian neutrality; that Herr Bethmann-7 follweg, the Imperial Chancellor, had given a similar assurance,; and that in 1913 Hen - Voa Jagow, the German Foreign Secretary, had made similar statements of a reassuring character in the Budget Committee of the Reichstag concerning the neutrality of Belgium. To this the German Minister replied that ho was aware of the conversation with his predecessor, and that “ he was certain that the sentiments expressed at that epoch had not changed.” Yet within 48 hours the same Herr Von Bulow delivered the German ultimatum to the Belgian Government.

—German Lies Before Declaring War.—• The text of the Belgian reply to that ultimatum is now given for the first, time ; ♦

By their Note of August 2, 1914. the German Government make it known t.liat, according to certain information, the French forces have had the intention of marching upon the Meuse by way of Give* and Dinant, and that Belgium, notwithstanding her good intentions, would not be in a position to repel without assistance an advance march of the French troops. The German Government feel themselves nnder the obligation to prevent that attack, mid to violate Belgian territory. Under these circumstances, Germany proposes to the King’s Government to adopt in reference to her a friendly attitude, and engages at the moment of peace to guarantee the integrity of the kingdom and its possessions to all their extent. The Note adds that if Belgium puts difficulties in the way of the forward movement of the German troops. Germany will be obliged to consider her as an enemy, and to leave the final settlement between the two States, one with the other, to the decision of arms. This Note lias provoked in the King's Government a profound and grievous astonishment. The intentions it attributes to France ere in, contradiction with the formal declarations which have been made to us on August 1 in the name of the Government of the Republic. Moreover, if contrary to onJ expectation, a violation of Belgian neutrality should come to be made by France, Belgium would fulfil all her international duties, and her army would oppose to the invader the most vigorous resistance. The Treaties of 1839, confirmed by the Treaties of 1870, consecrate in*' independence and neutrality of Belgium under the guarantee of the. Powers, and notably under that of His Majesty the King of Praaria. Belgium has'ever been frithful to her international obligations: she has accomplished her duties in a spirit of loyal impartiality; she.'has negheted no effort to maintain her neutrality, and to have it respected. The attempt upon her independence, which the German Government threaten, would constitute a flagrant violation qf the rights of nations. No strategic consideration justifies violation of right. Were they in accept the propositions that have been put to them, the Belgian Government. woiPd sacrifice the honor of the nations, and at the same time go back r.,i their dories to Europe. OomcitHM of the pari that Belgium has played for mere than T> years* in the world's oivili.'.'iikn, they refuse to believe that, the Indspc-nd-'-uco of Belgium can bo preserved rely at the price of violation of her neutrality. Tf thti hope is ill-four.:!**], the Belgian OovernrMtet ,»?o firmly resolved to repel by ovv.-y in their power ony attempt upo.:t tS«ir rights. On Adjust 7> the Belgian Minister in London telegraphed to his Government;—* England agrees to co-operate as guarantor in the’ defence of our temtoiy. The English fleet will assure tie free passage of the Scheldt for the revic* t 'jailing of Antwerp. What, was probably meant was free entry to the river a* against the German fleet, for the river itself is a Dutch territorial waterway. The Dutch Government, at tha outbreak of ho-c "‘ies, made an arrangement for the rt-b g of the river, which was closed 'ht, and for the piloting of vessels nn to Antwerp. (To be continued.)

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD19141126.2.43

Bibliographic details

BELGIUM'S NEUTRALITY, Evening Star, Issue 15660, 26 November 1914

Word Count
1,133

BELGIUM'S NEUTRALITY Evening Star, Issue 15660, 26 November 1914

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