Riyadh, May 19 (IANS) Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has arrived in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah to attend the Arab League's 32nd Summit on Friday, marking the first time since the war-torn nation was suspended from the regional body 12 years ago.
Upon his arrival late Thursday night, Assad was greeted by Prince Badr bin Sultan, the deputy governor of Mecca, along with Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, and several other local officials, according to the Syrian presidential media office in Damascus.
Striking a positive vibe, Assad smiled while shaking hands with the officials receiving him at the airport.
The visit, the first since the beginning of the ongoing Syrian war in 2011, comes as Damascus and Riyadh have resumed diplomatic missions in both countries, which had been suspended since November 2011.
Earlier this month, the Arab League voted to reinstate Syria's membership in the 22-member regional bloc.
At a meeting of the Arab League Foreign Ministers on Wednesday, Aboul-Gheit had declared that he hoped that "Syria's regaining of its seat is a precursor to the end of its conflict", reports the BBC.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud also welcomed Syria, saying: "Our world today is facing numerous challenges and difficulties that place us at a crossroads... It is necessary for us to stand together and try harder to strengthen joint Arab action to meet them."
As a result of the war in Syria, half of the country's pre-conflict 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, reports the BBC.
Even before the February 6 devastating 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.
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