Speaking at the Syrian peace conference underway in Montreux, Switzerland, today, Secretary of State John Kerry called for a United Nations investigation of the photos of tortured bodies in Syria obtained by CNN. He also hinted that the U.S. or international partners will increase funding for Syria's opposition.
"The latest charges are charges with photographs and documentation of mass torture, with bodies with numbers on them and designations written on them. And the questions raised by this require an answer. I can't tell you exactly what all of it is except that I know that they are people who have suffered egregious torture and death," Kerry said.
"The opposition today called for the United Nations to investigate these allegations. And we join with them in demanding that there be a thorough investigation of these charges," the Secretary of State said.
Earlier this week, CNN reported on photos that purportedly show dead bodies of Syrians tortured by President Bashar al-Assad's regime. CNN has relied on a source who claims to have worked for Syria's regime to photograph bodies of those killed in detention. The photos have drawn sharp reaction from the U.S. State Department, which has called them "extremely disturbing" and "horrible to look at."
The current conference in Switzerland-known as Geneva II and forced to Montreux for its first day by a watchmakers' convention in Geneva-has garnered low expectations for its outcome. State Dept. officials have said they will work toward local ceasefires, humanitarian access and prisoner exchanges, despite the conference's stated intent of implementing a transitional government and reaching a broad cease-fire in Syria.
But the Assad regime disagrees with the goal of ousting Assad and ushering in a transitional government, and the U.N.'s disinviting Iran from the conference means that a major player in Syria's civil war will not be at the negotiating table.
Kerry noted that the conference will not be the only avenue through which peace is pursued, alluding to "augmented" support for Syria's opposition.
"The support for the opposition is already augmenting, it is growing, it is continuing from many different sources of support that exist for it, and I'm confident that that will continue in the days ahead," Kerry said. "Without going into any further detail, I will just say to you that lots of different avenues will be pursued, including continued support to the opposition and augmented support to the opposition."
While Kerry did not specify that the U.S. would be doing the augmenting, State Dept. spokeswoman Marie Harf said today that the U.S. is "committed" to continuing-and increasing-its funding for the opposition. And while Kerry did not specify that military support would be augmented, in September sources told the Associated Press that the CIA had begun delivering light weapons to Syria's rebels.