Weeping crowds greeted President Assad in Homs, like some conquering hero come to gloat over the spoils of war.
This was the long-time rebel strong-hold of Baba Amr, and Government forces have reduced much of it to ruins.
For many of the people in this city, the President is no liberator, he’s a murderer.
Not far away, opposition groups say a fierce battle is still raging and lives are being lost.
We spoke to one activist in hiding in the city. He told us Baba Amr has been largely cleared of its original inhabitants. He described it as a closed military zone.
It’s against that grim backdrop that Syria accepted UN and Arab League Envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan.
Is this the big diplomatic breakthrough we’ve been waiting for?
Even Kofi Annan isn’t convinced. He is cautious and says that the implementation of proposals, including a ceasefire, humanitarian aid and political dialogue is the key.
The former UN secretary general was in China and it is Beijing and Moscow’s backing for the initiative that has left Assad with little room for manouvere.
But the Syrian president will no doubt hope to isolate rebel fighters who have long rejected any idea of laying down their arms while the regime remains intact.
Worryingly, there have been clashes today between Syrian soldiers and rebels on the Lebanese border.
It’s not clear whether the fighting spilled over into Syria’s fragile neighbour, but the incident shows the dangers of this crisis setting many fires across a flammable region.
It shows too the disconnect between diplomatic hopes and the violent reality on the ground.