Syria ended over a decade of exile from the Arab League on Monday as officials participated in a preparatory session ahead of Friday’s summit in Saudi Arabia. “I… take this opportunity to welcome the Syrian Arab Republic to the League of Arab States,” Saudi finance minister Mohammed al-Jadaan told the meeting, which was broadcast live by state TV channel Al Ekhbariya. Jadaan added that he was “looking forward to working with everyone to achieve what we aspire to”, as the camera panned to the Syrian delegation. It is the first time Syrian officials have participated in an Arab League meeting since the body suspended Damascus in November 2011 over its violent crackdown on protests which spiralled into a conflict that has killed more than 500,000 people and displaced millions. Earlier this month, the pan-Arab body officially welcomed back Syria’s government, securing President Bashar al-Assad’s return to the Arab fold. Saudi King Salman has invited Assad to attend Friday’s summit in the Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah, which would be his first since the 2010 meeting in Libya. Regional capitals have gradually been warming to Assad as he has held onto power and clawed back lost territory with crucial support from Iran and Russia.