Bashar Al-Assad
Bashar Al-AssadReuters

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad said in an interview published on Sunday that Syria has held meetings "from time to time" with Washington, as it seeks openings after over a decade of isolation, AFP reported.

"America is currently illegally occupying part of our lands... but we meet with them from time to time, although these meetings do not lead to anything," Assad was quoted as having said in an interview with a Russian-backed official from Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia.

Assad did not give further details about who was involved in the meetings, or what was discussed.

"There is always hope: even when we know there will be no results we must try," he said when asked about the possibility of mending ties with the West.

In 2011, after the Syrian civil war broke out, the United States imposed a slew of sanctions on Syria and was among the first to cut ties with Assad over the repression of anti-government protests.

Since then, the Syrian President has repeatedly rejected ties with the United States and other countries that support Syrian rebels, whom he calls “terrorists”.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in 2021 that the United States does not support efforts to normalize relations with Assad’s government or lift sanctions imposed on Damascus until there is progress in the political process in the country.

In the past year, Syria returned to the Arab fold, seeking better ties with wealthy US-allied Gulf states, in the hope they can help fund reconstruction.

In May of last year, the Arab League welcomed back Syria's government after a more than decade-long suspension, having initially frozen Syria's membership in November 2011 over the bloody government crackdown on protesters.

Two days later, Saudi Arabia announced that its diplomats would resume work in Syria, more than a decade after Riyadh withdrew its representatives during Syria's civil war.

Following those moves, a bipartisan group of US lawmakers introduced a bill intended to bar the American government from recognizing Assad as Syria's president and to enhance Washington's ability to impose sanctions.