CAIRO, May 7 (AFP) - The Arab League on Sunday (May 7) welcomed back Syria's government, ending a more than decade-long suspension and securing President Bashar al-Assad's return to the Arab fold after years of isolation.

In November 2011, the body suspended Damascus over its crackdown on peaceful protests which began earlier that year and which spiralled into a conflict that has killed more than 500,000 people, displaced millions and battered the country's infrastructure and industry.

While the front lines have mostly quietened, large parts of the country's north remain outside government control, and no political solution has yet been reached to the 12-year-old conflict.

"Government delegations from the Syrian Arab Republic will resume their participation in Arab League meetings" starting Sunday, said a unanimous decision by the group's foreign ministers.

Assad has been politically isolated since the war began, but recent weeks have seen a flurry of diplomatic activity ahead of an Arab League summit in Saudi Arabia on May 19.

The ministers in a statement emphasised their "keenness to launch a leading Arab role in efforts to resolve" the Syria crisis.

They agreed to form a ministerial committee to continue "direct dialogue with the Syrian government in order to reach a comprehensive solution".

Ahmed Aboul Gheit, head of the 22-member Arab League, said the decision "brings the Arab side into communication with the Syrian government for the first time in years, in order to look into all aspects of the problem".

Syria's return to the body is "the beginning ... not the end of the issue", he added, noting it was up to individual countries to decide whether to resume ties with Damascus.