PARIS The Syrian people must be left to decide their own future, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Thursday, adding that defeating terrorism was Syria's main problem and not who is running it.
On the first official visit to France by an Iranian president since 1999, Rouhani also said Tehran would keep to commitments it made under a nuclear agreement with major powers, but that those on the other side would also have to keep their end of the bargain.
"It is up to the Syrian people to make decisions for their country," Rouhani said at a news conference with President Francois Hollande when asked whether he was ready to compromise on the future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
"Today, the problem in Syria is not a question of people, but terrorism, Islamic State and the people who are buying oil from it, the same ones who are giving them weapons and supporting them politically."
With France having taken a hard line in the nuclear negotiations, being outspoken in its condemnation of Iranian support for Assad and having close ties with Sunni Muslim Gulf Arab rivals of Shi'ite Iran, the Paris leg of Rouhani's European trip was lower key than his trip to Italy earlier in the week.
While Hollande urged French firms to return to Iran and called for a new era in their relationship, he said it did not mean the countries did not have differences, which he said was their joint responsibility to help resolve.
"We spoke about everything because that's the rule in France," Hollande said, adding he had noted "France's attachment to human rights and freedoms."
Hollande, whose country has backed of Syrian opponents to Assad and has been advising them ahead of proposed peace talks with the government in Geneva, said it was urgent to put in place humanitarian measures and also negotiate a political solution.
"It is possible ... we must support this discussion," he said.
(Reporting By John Irish; Editing by Andrew Callus/Ruth Pitchford)
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