France and Syrian intelligence services in 'contact': Assad

AFP , Monday 20 Apr 2015

Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad said Monday that his regime's intelligence services have had contact with French agents despite a break in diplomatic ties.

"There is contact, but there is no cooperation," Assad said in extracts of an interview with France 2 TV to be broadcast later Monday.

The Syrian president said that while members of his government had met with French intelligence officials, there had been no exchange of information.

"They may have come to exchange information, but when you want this kind of collaboration you need goodwill from both sides," he said.

Assad added he would not help Paris while it was "supporting terrorists" -- his description of the Syrian opposition with whom his government has been engaged in a bloody four-year conflict.

Both France's foreign ministry and intelligence services refused to comment on their communications with Syria.

In 2013, diplomats told AFP that foreign intelligence agencies were discretely trying to rebuild ties with Damascus.

Paris has steadfastly refused a rapprochement, seeking a political transition that does not include Assad, who has been condemned as a "dictator" and "butcher" by both French President Francois Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

However, repeated diplomatic attempts to end the fighting have failed and some, such as UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura, have argued that Assad may need to be "part of the solution" to stop the conflict that has killed more than 210,000 people.

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