Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said that he is willing to conduct peace talks with the country's opposition, but has refused to consider stepping down.
Assad offered to hold talks with rebels in a bid to end the crisis on the condition they lay down their arms.
In a rare interview with UK newspaper The Sunday Times he, however, made the distinction between the "political entities" he would talk with and "armed terrorists".
He stressed that his regime can 'engage in dialogue with the opposition, but not with with terrorists,' News.com.au reports.
According to the report, Assad's offer of talks echoed that of Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem in Moscow last week, the first such move by a top Syrian official.
Syria is locked in a 23-month-long conflict in which the United Nations estimates over 70,000 have been killed, but Assad dismissed the idea the fighting is linked to his continued role as president. (ANI)