(Cairo) Arab foreign ministers on Sunday reintegrated the Syrian regime into the Arab League, sidelined in 2011 after the suppression of a popular uprising that degenerated into a devastating war.

This decision comes against a backdrop of reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and while Syrian President Bashar al-Assad badly needs investors for the huge reconstruction project in his country.

“Syrian Arab Republic government delegations will once again sit in the Arab League,” reads the text voted unanimously behind closed doors at the Cairo-based Arab League.

President Assad is therefore “welcome if he wants to” at the annual summit of heads of state of the pan-Arab organization on May 19 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, said Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit .

Damascus has said it wants to “strengthen cooperation” within a region that had ostracized the Syrian president from 2011.

Mr. Assad recently emerged from his persona non grata status, benefiting in particular from an outpouring of global solidarity in February after an earthquake that devastated large parts of Syria, as well as Turkey.

For Syria specialist Fabrice Balanche, “it’s a diplomatic victory” for Damascus, noting that there are “no longer any obstacles to the reopening of all Arab embassies in Syria”.

Mr. Aboul Gheit, however, indicated on Sunday that it was up to each Arab state to normalize or not its relations with Damascus.

The wealthy Gulf state on Sunday voted to reintegrate the Syrian regime into the pan-Arab organization but its stance “on normalization” with Damascus “has not changed”, Foreign Ministry spokesman Majed Al said. -Ansari.

Any normalization with Damascus should be tied to political progress “that meets the aspirations of the brotherly Syrian people”, he said.

The war in Syria has involved regional and international actors, fragmented the country, caused around half a million deaths and millions of refugees and displaced persons. If the main fronts have fallen silent, no political solution has yet been found.

In addition to the surge of international solidarity after the February 6 earthquake, Mr. Assad benefited from a radical change in the regional situation, with the warming between Tehran and Riyadh.

In mid-April, Syrian Foreign Minister Fayçal Moqdad made a surprise visit to Saudi Arabia, a first since the start of the conflict.

Now, Syria is counting on full normalization with Arab countries, in particular the wealthy Gulf monarchies, to finance its costly reconstruction.

With time and the support of Russia and Iran, Mr. Assad has regained control of most of the country, although four million people still live in territories in the northwest controlled by rebels and jihadists. .

“It is unacceptable to allow (Assad) to avoid punishment for the war crimes he has committed against Syrians,” the Turkey-based group said.

In rebel areas too, the announcement was met with anger.

“We had to flee our homes destroyed by Assad,” said Ghassan Mohammed al-Youssef, in a camp for displaced people in the Idlib region. “Let the Arab leaders tell us where they want us to go now? “, he says to AFP.

In November 2011, 18 of the 22 members of the Arab League had suspended the Syrian government’s participation in their meetings.

The pan-Arab organization had also imposed economic sanctions on Syria and the end of air links.

Sunday’s statement said nothing about that.