Syrian President Assad says open to dialogue with US

Embattled leader says he is open to dialogue with anyone but will not compromise on sovereignty of his country.

Belgium delegation to Syria talks of need to support al-Assad
The United States still wants a negotiated political settlement to Syria's civil war that excludes Assad [EPA]

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is open to having a dialogue with the United States, but there can be no “pressuring of the sovereignty” of his country, he has said in an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes”.

Asked in an excerpt of the interview that aired on Thursday about recent comments by US Secretary of State John Kerry that Washington would have to negotiate with the Syrian leader to end the conflict there, Assad said: “As principal, in Syria we could say that every dialogue is a positive thing, and we are going to be open to any dialogue with anyone, including the United States, regarding anything based on mutual respect.”

While saying there had been no direct communication between Damascus and Washington, Assad, who has been fighting rebels since 2011, added: “Any dialogue is positive, as I said, in principal, of course, without pressuring the sovereignty of Syria.”

The United States still wants a negotiated political settlement to Syria’s civil war that excludes Assad, US officials said earlier this month after Kerry’s comments.

The State Department said later that Kerry was not specifically referring to Assad and that Washington would never bargain with him.

Washington has made clear its top priority in Syria is the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group, who have seized large parts of the country as well as parts of Iraq.

Source: Reuters