Paris: Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad is not a "credible" partner in the fight against the Islamic State extremist group, French President Francois Hollande said Thursday after meeting Syria`s exiled opposition chief.
Hollande said in a statement after meeting Khaled Khoja that Assad "is the main cause of his people`s suffering, and for the rise of terrorist groups in Syria."
"He is therefore not a credible interlocutor to fight against Daesh and prepare Syria`s future," said Hollande, using an alternative name for the Islamic State group.
Hollande was meeting for the first time with Khoja, who has headed the main National Coalition since January.
In an interview with AFP ahead of the meeting, Khoja said he was aiming to pull together the country`s divided dissidents to end the nearly five-year bloodbath.
Khoja also stressed that Assad must go, but that his ouster was not a pre-condition for any future peace talks.
Hollande "congratulated the National Syrian Coalition for his initiative to enter into dialogue with other members of the democratic opposition and encouraged it to continue along this path."
He urged the relaunch of the "Geneva process" to find a political solution to the chaos in Syria -- "the only solution possible to bring together the Syrian people... eradicate terrorist groups and re-establish peace in society."
The conflict, which has killed more than 210,000 people and forced half the population to flee their homes, began as a peaceful uprising in March 2011, but developed into a savage war after Assad unleashed a crackdown against dissent.