Location of Syrian peace talks bumped for luxury watch fair

December 17, 2013

Young Syrian refugees build a snowman in a makeshift refugee camp in the Lebanese village of Baaloul in the Bekaa Valley. (Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP/Getty Images)

If there's a more tragically accurate symbol of the world's priorities today, I haven't seen it:

The United Nations plans to precede its internationally brokered peace talks between Syria's warring sides next month with a one-day meeting of foreign ministers in the Swiss city of Montreux, officials said Tuesday.

A daylong gathering for speeches by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and more than two dozen other foreign ministers is planned for Jan. 22 at a Montreux hotel. It is to be overseen by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, with help from the Swiss government.

The session is taking place at the opposite end of Lake Geneva from the U.N. European headquarters because a luxury watch fair has taken up all the hotel rooms in Geneva for several days, Khawla Mattar, a spokeswoman for the U.N.-Arab League's special envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, told reporters Tuesday.

In a way, it's understandable. Previous rounds of Syrian peace talks have gone nowhere, only drawing attention to the world's failure to stop or slow a conflict that has killed perhaps 100,000 and created 2 million refugees as well as many more internally displaced. A luxury watch fair might not do anything to improve the welfare of human beings in desperate need, either, but at least it won't disappoint.

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Max Fisher · December 17, 2013