It was unfortunate that events took place during the month of July - a holiday month when politicians and diplomats were away from their desks. By the time the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum had been issued on 23 July - and after a cooling-off period had been allowed by the Austro-Hungarians, who remained anxious to avoid a general conflagration - both the French Prime Minister, Rene Viviani, and President, Raymond Poincare, were away from France on a diplomatic mission to Russia. There, at St. Petersburg, they reaffirmed their support for the Tsar, Nicholas II, in his backing of Serbia. Another power - Italy - was, as a signatory of the Triple Alliance, supposedly bound to assist Germany and Austria-Hungary in the event of war, but had separately signed a secret alliance with France that effectively removed her from the equation. In any event, both she and Turkey gave every indication of being unwilling to become involved during the course of July.