Syrian President Bashar al-Assad attended the Arab League summit for the first time since the organization was suspended from the regional body 12 years ago.
Assad has been shunned by many of his fellow leaders after his government violently cracked down on pro-democracy protests, sparking a civil war that has killed half a million people.
Syria was reinstated this month after countries backing the opposition accepted his power was guaranteed.
They include summit host Saudi Arabia.
The resumption of relations accelerated after the devastating earthquake that struck Turkey and northwestern Syria in February, when the once-hostile powers decided to send humanitarian aid to areas controlled by the government. Syria controlled.
China also brokered a surprise deal in March under which Saudi Arabia restored diplomatic ties with longtime regional rival Iran, which, along with Russia, helped Assad’s forces. regain control of the largest cities of Syria.
Much of the country, however, remains under the control of Turkish-backed rebels, jihadists and Kurdish-led militia fighters supported by the United States.
Half of Syria’s pre-war population of 22 million has been displaced. About 6.8 million people are internally displaced, while another 6 million are refugees or asylum seekers abroad.
Even before the quake struck, an estimated 15.3 million people inside Syria were in need of some form of humanitarian assistance – a high not seen since the war began.
President Assad arrived on Thursday night in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah, where this year’s Arab League summit is taking place.
At a meeting of the foreign ministers of the 22 member states on Wednesday, Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit stated that he hoped that “Syria’s regaining of its seat is a foreshadowing of the the end of the conflict”.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud also welcomed Syria.
“Our world today is facing countless challenges and difficulties that put us at a crossroads,” he said. “It is essential that we stand together and do more to strengthen the collective action of the Arabs to deal with them.”
However, not all countries are enthusiastic about restoring control of Syria.
Qatar’s foreign minister told a news conference in Doha that it abandoned the opposition simply because it didn’t want to “deviate from the Arab consensus”.
Meanwhile, the US said it “does not believe that Syria deserves its return”.
“Our position is very clear – we will not normalize relations with the Assad regime, and we certainly do not support others to do so,” State Department spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters.