Pope receives letter from Assad

The Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, has sent a private message to Pope Francis as a delegation from Damascus visiting the Vatican met on aturday with the pontiff’s two most senior diplomatic representatives.

The contents of the message were not disclosed by the Vatican, which said in a statement simply that Joseph Sweid, a Syrian government minister, had met both Francis’s secretary of state, Archbishop Pietro Parolin, and foreign secretary, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti.

“The delegation brought a message from President Assad for the Holy Father and outlined the position of the Syrian government,” it added.

But, according to Sana, Syria’s state-run news agency, the message set out the Assad regime’s position ahead of next month’s peace conference in Geneva, saying it was willing to take part in the talks but that countries supporting rebel groups would have to stop.

“The message also highlighted that stopping terrorism requires having the countries which are involved in supporting the armed terrorist groups stop providing any sort of military, logistic or training support, noting that this support was provided by some of Syria’s neighbours and other known countries in the Middle East and abroad,” Sana reported.

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