Syrian President Bashar Assad urged Europe Friday to play a role in helping refugees return to his country when fighting ends.
Assad called on European nations “which have been a direct cause for the emigration of these people, by giving cover to terrorists in the beginning and through sanctions imposed on Syria, to help Syrians return to their country.”
The Syrian government has long accused international powers of backing insurgent groups and seeking to destabilize the country.
"I would like to ask every person who left Syria to come back," Assad told AFP.
However, he noted, "They would ask 'why should I come back? Has terrorism stopped?'"
During the same interview, Assad vowed to continue the fight against terrorism, while engaging in United Nations brokered negotiations.
“If we negotiate, it does not mean that we stop fighting terrorism. The two tracks are inevitable in Syria,” he said.
Peace talks are on hold until February 25, though earlier Friday a group of 17 nations agreed to continue to back negotiations. In a statement, the International Syria Support Group said fighting in Syria could end within a week if Assad and major insurgent organizations backed their peace plan.
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Speaking to AFP, Assad said he has “fully believed in negotiations and in political action since the beginning of the crisis.”
Syria's civil war has left more than 250,000 people dead since the conflict broke out in 2011. Over 11 million Syrians have been displaced by fighting.
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