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Assad says France sponsors terrorism, cannot talk about peace

File photo: Russian President Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visit the Hmeymim air base in Latakia Province

Syrian President Bashar al Assad accused France of supporting bloodshed in his country, making it unfit to talk about a peace settlement, comments that were rebuffed by Paris which said he was in no position to give lessons after massacring his people.

France on Friday said the Syrian government was doing nothing to reach a peace agreement after almost seven years of war and said it was committing mass crimes in the Eastern Ghouta region where 400,000 people are besieged by government forces.

On Monday Assad hit back.

“France spearheaded support for terrorism and their hands are soaked in Syrian blood from the first days and we do not see they have changed their stance fundamentally,” Assad was quoted in state media as telling reporters after meeting a Russian delegation that France had

“Those who support terrorism have no right to talk about peace,” he added.

Despite being a leading backer of the Syrian opposition, France has sought a more pragmatic approach to the Syrian conflict since the arrival of President Emmanuel Macron, saying that Assad’s departure was not a pre-condition for talks.

Macron said on Monday he would push for peace talks involving all parties in the six-year-old Syrian conflict, including Assad, promising “initiatives” early next year.

He did not say how any French proposals would relate to existing negotiations being brokered by the United Nations and insisted that the Syrian leader would have to face justice for his crimes.

Speaking in Washington after meeting senior US officials, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said France was not going to take lessons from a man who had released thousands of Islamist militants from prison to fan the flames of the civil war and who relied on Russia and Iran to stay in power.

“When you have spent your days massacring your people, you should be generally a little more discrete,” Le Drian said.

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