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Syria's Assad holds talks with 4 French lawmakers in Damascus; France calls visit unofficial


DAMASCUS, Syria — Syrian President Bashar Assad has held talks with four French lawmakers visiting Damascus — the first such meeting since Paris broke diplomatic ties in 2012.

French government spokesman Stephan Le Foll says the trip is the "personal initiative" of the lawmakers and in no way an official diplomatic trip. France has been a staunch supporter of the mainstream opposition forces trying to oust Assad in Syria's civil war.

The Syrian state news agency says Assad and the Frenchmen discussed during Wednesday's meeting the "developments and challenges facing the Arab and European areas, especially those pertaining to terrorism."

The four lawmakers were identified as Gerard Bapt, Jean-Pierre Vial, Jacques Myard and Francois Zochetto.

Bapt and Vial are presidents of the France-Syria Friendship Group in the French parliament.

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