Bashar Al Assad, the Syrian president, attended the Arab League’s annual summit for the first 12 years.
After his crackdown against pro-democracy demonstrations led to civil war, Mr Assad’s suspension by the alliance was announced in 2011.
Since then, more than 500,000 people died and over half of the 22 million inhabitants who lived in the country before war have been forced to flee.
In a speech in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia’s host city, Mr Assad referred to his reinstatement as a historic opportunity’ for addressing crises in the Arab World.
This decision is part of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s effort to improve relations with the region after he tried to reestablish diplomatic ties earlier this year with Iran, a long-standing rival.
This comes on the heels of the devastating earthquake that struck in February, which killed approximately 50,000 people in Turkey.
Jams Cleverley, British Foreign Secretary, said earlier this month: “The UK does not agree with Syria being readmitted to the Arab League.. it is ultimately a decision made by the Arab League.”
It is important to conditionally accept their actions. It must be conditional upon fundamental behavioral changes from Damascus, and the Assad regime.
ASSAD’S READMITTANCE – PRAGMATISM in Action
Bashar al-Assad’s arrival at the Arab League summit in Saudi Arabia is a historical moment. It marks the reemergence of a person – and regime – who have been shunned for so long.
The charges against Mr Assad would fill several volumes.
The Syrian president violently suppressed the protests that arose during the Arab Spring. The uprising became a national revolt and Mr Assad destroyed much of the country in order to protect his interests.
The breezy photo ops are based on important practical considerations. Syria is at the centre of a complex transnational issue and its neighbouring countries require Mr Assad’s help.
The Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy also visited Jeddah after surprise appearances in person at London, Vatican City, and Paris.
Zelenskyy has mostly only visited Ukraine’s allies in the past, but on Saturday he accused 22 of turning a “blind eye” towards Russia’s invasion.
He said that he hoped people would realize Ukraine “will not submit to any colonisers or foreigners”.
“That’s the reason we fight,” he said.
Mr Zelenskyy criticized Iran for providing the Kremlin drones, and also brought up the suffering of the ethnic Muslim Tatars who live under Russian occupation in Crimea.
Saudi Arabia said that it was “willing to exert efforts to mediate between Russia and Ukraine”, yet has not increased its oil production in order to cripple Russia.
What is the Arab League?
In 1945, the Arab League was formed in the aftermath of World War II.
It started with only seven founding members, but now has 22 with five additional “observer” states: Brazil, India Venezuela, Armenia, and Eritrea.
It is headquartered in Cairo and hosts an annual summit that promotes sovereignty, political stability, economic growth, and trade throughout the Arab world.
Egypt and Libya were the only two other members states, apart from Syria, that had their membership temporarily suspended.
Since its founding, the UN hasn’t been able to achieve high levels of co-operation.
Qatar departs before Assad’s speech
Some people were not happy to see Mr Assad return.
The Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani left the summit before Mr Assad’s speech.
He declined to make a speech, or have any bilateral meetings. He described the visit as “a courtesy visit”.
US and Western allies also expressed shock over the invitation from the Syrian leader, as most of the world views him as a criminal.
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Vedant Patel, a spokesman for the US Department of State, said that America “doesn’t believe that Syria deserves readmission”.
Sudan was also discussed, as the conflict between the two warring generals has cost hundreds of lives.
Members of the League support both sides. Last week, Jeddah was the site of negotiations that culminated in a promise to provide safe passage for civilians fleeing the fighting as well as for aid workers.
As tensions in the Middle East escalate, support for Palestinians is also discussed.