Shortly before the start of the Arab League summit, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has been isolated for years, was welcomed there with friendly gestures on a broad stage. On Friday, Saudi state television prominently featured Assad as he arrived in Jeddah the night before. Syria's Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mikdad said: "This summit is very important. We are satisfied with all the precautions that the Kingdom (Saudi Arabia) has taken."
Whether Assad should meet other heads of state and monarchs of the region for talks on Friday remained unclear at first. Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Tunisia's President Kais Saied, Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, among others, attended the summit. Syria was expelled from the Arab League in 2011 in the wake of the violent suppression of protests in the country. At the beginning of May, the members finally decided on Syria's resumption.
Assad's participation was positively commented on by Saudi media. "The Arab house is getting a new look. Relations will be strengthened, problems with brothers in cooperation will be eliminated, and no one will be excluded," a spokesman said on state television Al-Ekhbariya. Saudi Arabia has managed to calm the situation in the region and bring about "real changes".
Assad was severely isolated internationally for more than ten years. His government brutally suppressed protests in Syria in 2011 and cracked down on its own people in the ensuing civil war, which continues to this day. For years, Assad rarely appeared in public and officially traveled only to allied Russia and Iran for a long time. From 2018 onwards, however, the Emirates, for example, pushed ahead with normalisation.