Bashar al-Assad attends first Arab League summit since start of Syria war


© APA | Syria's President Bashar al-Assad

# 19 May 2023 18:32 (UTC +04:00)

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is attending an Arab League summit for the first time since it was suspended from the regional body 12 years ago, APA reports citing BBC.

Mr Assad was shunned by many fellow leaders after his government's violent crackdown on pro-democracy protests triggered a civil war in which half a million people have been killed.

Syria was readmitted this month after states which had backed the opposition accepted his grip on power was secure.

They include summit hosts Saudi Arabia.

The rapprochement accelerated following the devastating earthquake that hit Turkey and north-western Syria in February, when once-hostile powers decided to send humanitarian aid to Syrian government-controlled areas.

China also brokered a surprise agreement in March that saw Saudi Arabia restore diplomatic ties with its long-time regional rival Iran, which along with Russia has helped Mr Assad's forces regain control of Syria's biggest cities.

Large parts of the country are nevertheless still held by Turkish-backed rebels, jihadists, and Kurdish-led militia fighters supported by the United States.

Half of Syria's pre-war population of 22 million have had to flee their homes. Some 6.8 million people are internally displaced, while another 6 million are refugees or asylum-seekers abroad.

Even before the earthquake struck an estimated 15.3 million people inside Syria were in need of some form of humanitarian assistance - an all-time high since the war began.