- The military wing of the U.S.-backed Syrian National Coalition (SNC), an umbrella opposition group fighting against President Bashar Assad, has flatly rejected a proposal by Russia which would see the regime hand over control of its vast chemical weapons stockpiles to international control to avoid U.S. military strikes.
- After more than two and a half years of bloodshed in Syria which has left more than 100,000 people dead and millions displaced, the Russian initiative was announced Monday and quickly agreed to by Assad's government.
- The U.S., Israel and France have voiced cautious optimism that the plan could yield results, but remain skeptical that Syria is genuine in its offer to hand over the weapons, and concerned about how such an operation could actually function in a country where fighting between government forces and rebels is intensifying.
- Late Wednesday, Gen. Salim Idriss, the head of the SNC's military council, said in a video posted online that he and his fellow rebel commanders "announce our definitive rejection of the Russian initiative to place chemical weapons under international custody."
- "We ask that the international community not be content with withdrawing chemical weapons, which are a criminal instrument, but to hold the perpetrator accountable and prosecute him at the International Criminal Court," Idriss said, blaming Assad for an Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack on the Damascus suburbs which the Obama administration says left at least 1,400 people dead.
- French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Thursday, meanwhile, that a United Nations team of inspectors would likely publish its report on the attack in the eastern Ghouta suburbs on Monday.
Syria Rebel Coalition Rejects Russia Chemical Weapons Handover Proposal