Cairo, Egypt – The Arab League on Sunday welcomed back Syria’s government, ending a more than decade-long suspension and securing President Bashar al Assad’s return to the Arab fold after years of isolation.
In November 2011, the 22-member body suspended Damascus over its crackdown on peaceful protests which began earlier that year and which spiralled into a civil conflict that has killed more than 500,000 people, displaced millions and battered the country’s infrastructure and industry.
While the front lines have mostly quietened, large parts of the country’s north remain outside government control, and no political solution has yet been reached to the 12-year-old conflict.
“Government delegations from the Syrian Arab Republic will resume their participation in Arab League meetings” starting Sunday, said a unanimous decision by the group’s foreign ministers.
Assad has been politically isolated since the war began, but recent weeks have seen a flurry of diplomatic activity ahead of an Arab League summit in the Saudi city of Jeddah on May 19.
In a statement, the ministers emphasised their “keenness to launch a leading Arab role in efforts to resolve” the Syria crisis and its “humanitarian, security and political consequences”, noting that humanitarian aid must reach “all those in need”.
They also agreed to form a ministerial committee to continue “direct dialogue with the Syrian government in order to reach a comprehensive solution”.
Several Arab countries cut ties with Damascus early in the conflict, while some including Qatar and Saudi Arabia provided support to the Syrian opposition.
The last Arab League summit Assad attended was in 2010, while the opposition attended the pan-Arab group’s summit in Doha in 2013, sparking a furious reaction from Damascus.