A joint team of international chemical weapons inspectors has arrived in Syria to being the daunting process of dismantling and destroying the country's chemical weapons stockpile and manufacturing facilities.
The joint international team is amde up of 19 experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and 14 personnel from the United Nations (UN).
The international team is mandated by the agreement reached between Russia and the U.S. in Geneva and endorsed by the UN Security Council resolution on Friday.
An advance team which reached Syria on Tuesday is tasked with securing the sites for the subsequent teams to operate.
Under the Russia-U.S. agreement, also endorsed by the UN, Syria provided a list of its chemical weapons stockpile and manufacturing facilities to the OPCW in September.
Under the framework, OPCW is now supposed to complete on-site inspection and undertake possible destruction of manufacturing equipment by Nov 2013. Under provision of the agreement, some of the weapons will be destroyed in Syria and other carted outside the country for destruction.
The Russia-US framework provides for the complete elimination of all chemical weapons, material and manufacturing equipment by the middle of 2014.
Experts, however, believe the international team faces a difficult task ahead. Syria will be first case in which OPCW will dismantle and destroy chemical weapons in the conflict zone. It would require cooperation and compliance by two factions of the civil conflict.
Both sides, meanwhile, have promised support to the OPCW-UN team to carry out their operations.
Syrian government officials said they will provide full cooperation to the UN-OPCW mission. The opposition Syrian National Coalition has also assured that inspectors "will be protected and granted access to all locations".
The risk, however, is that the rebel Free Syrian Army is ridden by factionalism with local commanders claiming autonomy, and some factions have close tied with Islamic extremist groups.
Notably, out of the 19 chemical weapons sites declared by the government, 7 are in the combat zones.
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