Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad - Reuters

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said he is open to dialogue with rebel forces - but added that opposition groups cannot win the country's protracted civil war.

Assad told the Egyptian weekly magazine al-Ahram al-Araby:"I welcome dialogue with the national opposition but those who choose arms have put themselves in confrontation with the Syrian Arab army.

"political dialogue is the only solution. Violence, however, is not allowed ... and the state will not stand with its hands tied in the face of those who bear arms against it."

Speaking from Damascus, Assad continued by asserting that rebel groups such as the Free Syrian Army "exercise terrorism against the state. They are not popular within society ... they will not be victorious in the end."

According to activists' estimates, around 27,000 people have died so far during Syria's 17-month civil war, which shows no sign of an immediate resolution. Assad has been widely condemned for alleged human rights abuses both before and during the current conflict.

Assad recently met with UN and Arab League special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who visited Syria in an attempt to find a way out of the present crisis. However, the president insisted that a solution via foreign intervention is never possible, and ridiculed countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which have repeatedly criticised him in recent months.

"Those have suddenly become wealthy after very long period of poverty... they imagine they can use their wealth to buy the geography, history and a regional role. Bringing down the governments of the Arab world has not worked in the interest of freedom, democracy or ending social injustice as much as it helped create chaos."