Prague: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accused France of "supporting terrorism" and said he saw Prague as a possible venue for signing any future peace deal to end his country's four-year civil war, in comments that have broadcast on TV.
In an interview due to be aired on Czech TV in full today, the Syrian strongman was asked whether he could see a peace deal being signed in Prague, as Czech President Milos Zeman had suggested in September.
"Naturally, if you ask Syrians they will tell you they don't want a peace conference in France, for example, because France supports terrorism and war, not peace," he said on the CT public station.
"And as you mention Prague, it would be generally accepted because of the balanced position of your country."
As the last diplomatic outpost of the West in Syria, the Czech embassy has become a hub for confidential US and EU communication with the Damascus regime amid moves aimed at ending the four-year conflict.
France has been adamant in its opposition to Assad, describing him as a "butcher" of his own people and yesterday Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said working with the Syrian army to fight the Islamic State group was not on the cards until he was removed.
On a trip to Washington last week, French President Francois Hollande and reiterated his determination to see Assad step down in order to give Syria a chance for peace, saying "it should be as soon as possible."
"He has been the problem - he cannot be the solution," Hollande said.
Syria's conflict began as a peaceful pro-democracy revolt in 2011 that later morphed into a multi-front civil war after Assad's regime unleashed a brutal crackdown against dissent.