The United Nations announced on Wednesday that they were assembling a team to go to Syria on a “fact finding mission” to determine whether the Syrian Army or the rebels have acquired chemical weapons.
QUESTION: Do you have any update on the UN investigation in the United States role in providing assistance to the – this is on chemical weapons, sorry —
PATRICK VENTRELL, STATE DEPARTMENT DEPUTY SPOKESMAN: Yeah.
QUESTION: — the UN investigation and how the U.S. is going to aid that investigation?
MR. VENTRELL: So just to note that the Secretary General announced yesterday that he’s appointed a head of the UN fact-finding mission. He’s a diplomat from Sweden, I believe. So we’re pleased to see the UN is moving forward to work out the details, which demonstrates the importance the UN is placing on the investigation. As you know, Brad, we support an investigation that pursues any and all credible allegations into the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria. We demand the full cooperation of the Assad regime, in particular, as well as Syrian authorities throughout the country. So we want them to have full, unfettered access to all relevant individuals and locations. But —
QUESTION: What does any and all credible – I don’t think you guys have determined if any of them are credible or not, correct? Or have you?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, look, the point is that they need to be able to – there were competing claims that need to be —
QUESTION: So any allegations, not credible or not, because you – I don’t think the U.S. has said whether any of them – I think you dismissed all the regime ones as non-credible, but you haven’t said that the rebel claims were credible.
MR. VENTRELL: Well, it’s going to be up to the UN to determine –
MR. VENTRELL: — what they think is credible. They’ll have the technical expertise and they’ll go into the country. But the Assad regime can prove that its request for investigation is genuine by fully cooperating with the UN, by providing them with access and security, and allowing the Secretary General’s team to complete their work. Absolutely I think that’s critical.
QUESTION: And just on the U.S. support for that, are you sending personnel? Are you —
MR. VENTRELL: I’m not aware that – if we have U.S. technical – U.S. citizen technical experts on the team. I understand the team is being assembled now, so we often do have U.S. experts on various UN investigatory teams, but I’m not aware. We’d —
QUESTION: Is that something you would support, considering —
MR. VENTRELL: I mean —
QUESTION: I mean, I would figure there’s quite a wealth of technical expertise in this country.
MR. VENTRELL: On – look, on a range of different UN investigations, we routinely offer U.S. experts, private citizens who are U.S. citizens, to provide expertise. I’m not aware in this particular case if we have somebody on the team or —
QUESTION: Are you offering?
MR. VENTRELL: It sounds like it’s being worked out today. So —
QUESTION: Are you offering that though?
MR. VENTRELL: I’m not aware, Brad. I would have to refer that to our U.S. mission at the UN, who’s interacting with the UN on this today.
QUESTION: Patrick, the Russians complained that not including them as part of the investigation team points to some sort of dubious evidence in this case. Do you have any comment on what they said?
MR. VENTRELL: I mean, really I refer you to the UN there. They’re working out the composition of the team and —
QUESTION: Do you think that countries like experts from Russia and maybe the United States ought to be involved?
MR. VENTRELL: I mean, look, there are a number of different countries that offer experts in any UN investigation. That’s a routine and normal thing that happens. I don’t know whether the Russians have particular experts they’re trying to get on this investigatory body, but that’s normal for a variety of countries to offer their experts, and the UN determines the best way forward.