Oman has sent an ambassador to Syria after an eight-year hiatus, the state news agency reported, the latest sign of deepening engagement between Gulf Arab states and Syria’s President Bashar Assad. The move on Sunday made Oman the first Gulf Arab state to reinstate its ambassador to Syria since the eruption of the country’s ruinous civil war. In 2012, Oman and other Gulf Arab countries withdrew their ambassadors in protest of the Syrian government´s violent suppression of a year-old uprising. Other Arab states shuttered their embassies but Oman, known for its neutrality and diplomacy between regional foes, kept its open throughout the years of conflict. During the ambassador´s reception in Damascus, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem expressed “pride in Omani foreign policy” and appreciation for “the close fraternal relations between the countries,” according to Oman´s state news agency. Oman´s new ambassador, Turki bin Mahmood al-Busaidy, said he looks forward to “expanding the paths of cooperation and shared interests between the two brotherly countries,” the statement added. Syria was expelled from the 22-member Arab League in 2011, and Arab countries have sanctioned Damascus and condemned its use of military force against the opposition. Yet with the war winding down and the Syrian army recapturing most of the territory once lost to the opposition, a few Arab countries that had once boycotted Assad and backed his opposition are now pursuing a quiet rapprochement with his government.