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UN eyes Montreux for Syria peace conference

December 10, 2013

GENEVA (AP) — Organizers are considering moving the opening of January’s Syria peace conference to the other end of Lake Geneva because of a luxury watch fair.

The Jan. 22 start of the meeting may need to switch to the Swiss city of Montreux, home of the famous jazz festival, because of insufficient hotel rooms in Geneva, U.N. spokeswoman Corinne Momal-Vanian said Tuesday.

“It is certainly a possibility that is being considered very seriously,” she said.

The timing for the “Geneva 2” conference was set by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon after high-level discussions involving the United States and Russia, Syria’s key ally.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and more than two dozen other foreign ministers are expected to deliver speeches during the first day of the conference. The actual negotiations between Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government and armed Syrian opposition groups begin the second day.

But the first three days of the conference overlap with the 24th edition of the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, a luxury watch fair that draws more than 12,000 people to Geneva, a global center of watchmaking. Geneva’s hotel rooms are booked.

Momal-Vanian noted that the Syrian negotiations — for which there is no fixed end date — would still be conducted at the historic Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The three-year-old Syrian war has killed at least 120,000 people, according to activists, and sent millions of refugees fleeing the country.

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