GENEVA, Sept. 14 (Xinhua) -- The United States and Russia reached an agreement on Saturday in Geneva on a framework to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons after the three-day intensive talks that started from Thursday in the Switzerland city.
Under the framework announced by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, an initial timetable of procedures for expeditious destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons has been developed: Syria must submit a "comprehensive listing" of its chemical weapons stockpiles in one week, international inspectors must be on the ground in Syria by November and destruction or removal of the chemical weapons must be completed by mid-2014.
The joint announcement made by the two top diplomats, representing an substantial progress of diplomatic efforts, further reduced the possibility of an immediate external military intervention by U.S. against Syria and outlined a more promising picture for a political solution to the Syrian conflict.
The U.S.-Russian deal, which would pave the way for further cooperation to end the more than two-year bloodshed in Syria if successfully implemented as Kerry noted, was backed by the United Nations.
Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General, Saturday welcomed the framework, and pledged support of the UN in its implementation, expressing his hope that it would help pave the path for a political solution to stop the appalling sufferings inflicted on the Syrian people.
However, clouds of uncertainty loom over the deal. Concerns regarding the upcoming implementation process remain. The implementation of the framework presents a "hard road ahead", said Kerry. Meanwhile, Lavrov said that the decision that the two sides have reached today was only "the beginning."
The implementation process in the lead up to November, let alone to mid-2014, may be impeded or even disrupted by the military dynamics of the Syria conflict as the over-two-year conflict still sees little sign of a turnaround. After the announcement of the agreement, the Syrian opposition rejected it and refused to declare a ceasefire with the government.
Challenges may also arise in terms of ensuring the safety of international inspectors, who are expected to enter Syria, amid ongoing fights in the war-torn country. Moreover, the deal, though mentioning neither the use of force nor any automatic sanctions, does not completely exclude a scenario of military intervention.