Russia steps back from claim that Syrian rebels used chemical weapons

Russia took a step back on Wednesday related to claims that Syrian rebels used chemical weapons in an attack in the Aleppo province earlier in the week.

On Tuesday, Russia's foreign ministry said it received information from Damascus that the Syrian rebels employed chemical weapons in a Tuesday attack in Syria that claimed the lives of 16 people. One day later, Russia said the information still required verification, AFP reports.

Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov, Russia's point man on the Middle East, said there was no definitive evidence the rebels used weapons of mass destruction.

"The story concerning the use of chemical weapons in Syria must be meticulously investigated," Gatilov said, according to AFP. "For now, there is no unequivocal evidence about this."

Russia is one of Syria's closest allies. On three separate occasions, Russia blocked United Nations sanctions against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, AFP reports.

Syrian rebels also claimed evidence of a chemical weapon attack, only they alleged it was the Syrian government initiating the use of the deadly agents. U.S. and European officials said there was no evidence to suggest the Syrian government used chemical weapons either. Western delegates said if either side used chemical weapons, it would be the first use of such weapons during the two-year-old civil war, Reuters reports.