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Jazz Hub Montreux at Center of Syria Peace Drive

Better known for its jazz festival and as the inspiration for rock anthem "Smoke on the Water", Swiss town Montreux is now the hub of efforts to end the war in Syria.

As Syria's government, the country's divided opposition and the international community gathered for talks, the picturesque lakeside town was locked down.

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Plane Carrying Syrian Delegation to Talks Leaves Athens

A plane carrying the Syrian delegation to crucial peace talks in Switzerland finally took off from Athens after being blocked there for hours Tuesday, according to Agence France Presse reporters at the airport.

The plane took off from the Greek capital at 5:05 pm (1505 GMT), just over five hours after touching down at the airport.

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Syria's Tolerated Opposition Rejects Invite to Talks

Syria's regime-tolerated opposition has said it has turned down an invitation from the National Coalition to attend peace talks this week in Switzerland.

In a statement issued Monday, the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change said its chief Hassan Abdel Azim had been asked a day earlier by Coalition president Ahmad Jarba to join the talks in a single delegation.

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Report: Muallem to Visit Russia before Peace Talks

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem will visit Russia ahead of the Geneva 2 peace talks on the crisis due to begin in Switzerland later this month, Damascus's ambassador to Moscow said Monday.

"He will be in Moscow prior to Geneva 2," Riyad Haddad told the Interfax news agency, without specifying the date.

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Poll: Swiss Voters Set to Reject EU Migrant Quotas

Over half of Swiss voters oppose a controversial plan by right-wing populists to reimpose immigration quotas for European Union citizens, a poll showed Friday ahead of a referendum.

A total of 55 percent of those surveyed said they were against the measure on the table in a February 9 plebiscite, according to the survey released by public broadcaster SRG.

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Mansour Receives Invitation to the Geneva II Talks

Caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour received on Tuesday an invitation from U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon to attend the Geneva II summit on January 22.

The multinational opening session will be held in Montreux, a city northeast of Geneva, before talks involving the opposing Syrian delegations and U.N.-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi are to continue in Geneva from January 24.

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Swiss Central Bank Hard Hit by Gold Price Fall

Switzerland's central bank said on Monday it lost billions in 2013 amid a sharp drop in gold prices and that it therefore would not pay dividends to Bern or the Swiss cantons.

The Swiss National Bank (SNB) said it expected to report a loss of 9.0 billion Swiss francs ($9.9 billion, 7.3 billion euros) in 2013, according to provisional figures.

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Khodorkovsky Vows to Fight for Russian Political Prisoners

Former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was freed by Moscow last month after a decade in jail, vowed Sunday to fight for Russian political prisoners from his new base in Switzerland.

"You can't live with peace of mind when you know there are political detainees rotting in prison," Khodorkovsky told Swiss public television SRF on the train that took him from Berlin to Basel.

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U.S. Open to 'Helpful' Iran Input on Syria

The United States is open to "helpful" Iranian input during an upcoming peace conference in Switzerland aimed at ending Syria's war, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday.

"We're happy to have Iran be helpful," he told reporters in Jerusalem.

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Switzerland Takes over OSCE helm

Switzerland on Wednesday assumed the rotating chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, naming the Western Balkans and South Caucasus as its priorities.

During its year at the helm of the 57-member body, Switzerland vowed to make a "tangible contribution to fostering security and stability, improving people's lives and strengthening the OSCE's capacity to act".

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