Embattled Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has sent a message to Pope Francis reiterating his position that there should be no foreign intervention in the ongoing civil war in Syria.
Assad said his side is ready to hold negotiations during the upcoming UN-brokered Geneva II talks, beginning on 22 January.
His remarks were conveyed during a meeting between Syria's lawmaker Joseph Sweid and the Pope's secretary of state Archbishop Pietro Parolin, according to Syria's regime-run news agency SANA.
"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," the statement said.
The Vatican has confirmed the meeting and said the "[Syrian] delegation brought a message from President Assad to the Holy Father and explained the position of the Syrian government".
Insisting that any outside intervention will not solve the Syrian crisis, Assad said: "This crisis will be solved through national dialogue among the Syrians and under a Syrian leadership without foreign intervention as to enable the Syrians to determine their future and leadership through ballots."
The statement added: "The message stressed the Syrian government's readiness to participate in the international conference on Syria 'Geneva II,' highlight that combating the terrorism that targets citizens is a decisive factor in making any peaceful solution to the crisis a success."
Assad's remarks come ahead of the forthcoming peace talks in Geneva. The first round of negotiations that took place in June 2012 failed to yield any breakthrough.
The Syrian conflict, which started as an uprising against Assad in March 2011, has claimed more than 100,000 lives so far, with no end in sight.