Bashar al-Assad, president of war-torn Syria, has been welcomed back into the Arab League after more than a decade of isolation.
On Friday, the Syrian president attended the regional bloc’s 32nd summit that kicked off in Saudi Arabia’s port city of Jeddah.
This was the first time al-Assad was invite to the summit since his country’s suspension from the blog following the eruption of war in Syria in 2011.
As leaders walked into the main hall, al-Assad exchanged greetings with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, among others.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), the de facto ruler of the kingdom, hugged al-Assad before their official picture was taken ahead of the start of the meeting.
During his speech, he said the summit was a “historic opportunity” to address crises across the region.
“I hope that it marks the beginning of a new phase of Arab action for solidarity among us, for peace in our region, development and prosperity instead of war and destruction,” al-Assad told summit attendees.
Analysts said Syria’s readmission to the 22-member Arab League is a strong signal that al-Assad’s isolation is ending, reflecting an important shift in how regional actors view the reality of his government’s survival, in ways that are at odds with the West.
Syria’s Arab League membership was revoked after al-Assad ordered a crackdown on protesters in March 2011 that spiralled the country into a war, which has since killed nearly half a million people and displaced another 23 million.