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Given their limited offensive actions during the trench warfare, the Austro-Hungarians were surely considering this was as far as they could actually advance. Didn't they put up negotiation positions through third parties before Versailles?

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    Well, I wrote up a lengthy answer but it got ate by the internet when I accidentally navigated away from the page. Basically Germany began trying to reach a negotiated settlement by late 1914 and continued till the end of the war, mainly through private contacts and non-official channels, but also through public declarations and neutral third parties. The Austro-Hungarians also sought peace around 1917, but it fell through because the Entente wanted a separate peace to isolate Germany, while Austria-Hungary sough a general peace and refuse to betray her ally. – Semaphore Dec 22 '17 at 11:19
  • It is surprising this question isn't a duplicate or near duplicate but I didn't find a similar question. – user2617804 Dec 24 '17 at 1:49
  • Please clarify: title uses Central Powers, body speaks only of AustriaHungary, which is it. Please clarify: is this about the armistice or Versailles – both dates and processes are quite apart – which is it? And was has your own research revealed to you about this? – LаngLаngС Nov 13 '18 at 22:54
  • @LangLangC I think I understand the intent of the question, and Semaphore's comment largely answers it, apart from the German attempt to negotiate peace directly with the US in 1918. – sempaiscuba Nov 14 '18 at 1:25
  • @sempaiscuba Re-thinking it: looks like Semaphore just forgot to change the body from "Versailles" to "armistice"? That would at least eliminate one problem. Still, I think OP needs to expand the Q with another edit. – LаngLаngС Nov 14 '18 at 1:36
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From what seems to be a pretty analysis, run by German universities, it looks like there were essentially no peace attempts.

After the Brest-Litovsk treaty it seems that Ludendorff really thought the war was winnable. The provisions of the treaty, far harsher than Versailles, really could have made a difference for the German domestic economy if there were a functional Russian state to meet its obligations.

The Spring Offensive of 1918 seems to be pretty clearly an attempt to capture Paris before the AEF could get established. On top of the limited documentation I think this intent shows there was little interest in a settlement.

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    The article you linked listed several peace initiatives... The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed only in 1918, so there was years of time for peace attempts before it. – Semaphore Jan 29 '18 at 8:29
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The entire time, from 1914 to 1918, both sides tried to impose a victor's peace on the other side.

Germany didn't sue for peace, but they did talk of peace a lot on their terms, as did all the other major combatants.

In fact, insincere peace discussions never really stopped. But that was actually what made this war so revealing of the cultural norm of the participants. The negotiators on all sides routinely made demands that the other side could not possibly accept based on the latest news from the front.

And it went back and forth like that for years.

  • 4 October 1918 - Germany telegraphs President Wilson seeking armistice – sempaiscuba Nov 13 '18 at 22:33
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    but that WAS the end.. :) I am pretty sure the OP was asking if Germany sued for peace before the actual Armistice, as in months or years before, not days before – sofa general Nov 13 '18 at 22:34
  • The series of notes to Woodrow Wilson (sent via Swiss intermediaries) were initiatives 'put up negotiation positions through third parties before Versailles?' - which is exactly what was requested by the OP. Other German initiatives are also listed in the article linked in the other answer. – sempaiscuba Nov 13 '18 at 22:41
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    While the headline speaks of Central powers, the Q body focusses AustriaHungary. While agree that Wilson notes/October are part of the armistice, the actions of Karl thru his relatives would qualify for the Q and run a bit counter to this answer. But then this is a terrible question that mixes armistice with Versailles into one date? Sigh. – LаngLаngС Nov 13 '18 at 22:52
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    @LangLangC The original version of the question doesn't mention the armistice at all, just Versailles. The armistice was added in a subsequent edit. – sempaiscuba Nov 14 '18 at 0:59

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