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Longtime Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat dies of COVID-19

Longtime Palestinian peace negotiator Dr. Saeb Erekay sits in his office in the PLO headquarters in Ramallah, West Bank, September 17, 2018. File Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI
Longtime Palestinian peace negotiator Dr. Saeb Erekay sits in his office in the PLO headquarters in Ramallah, West Bank, September 17, 2018. File Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 10 (UPI) -- Saeb Erekat, one of the most prominent names in Palestinian peace efforts over the past four decades, died of COVID-19 on Tuesday. He was 65.

Erekat, who also served as a Palestinian spokesman and peace negotiator, died just weeks after he was first diagnosed with the coronavirus. He'd previously had other medical ailments, including a lung transplant in 2017 while he fought a bacteria infection and a weakened immune system.

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"The departure of a brother and a friend, of the great fighter, Dr. Saeb Erekat, is a great loss for Palestine and our people, and we are deeply saddened," Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday.

Erekat, who was educated in the United States and Britain, was born in Jerusalem and grew up in the West Bank. He earned his doctorate degree in conflict resolution and long advocated for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on 1967 borders.

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Erekat also served as secretary-general of the Palestinian Liberation Organization's executive committee, was a member of the Fatah Party Central Committee and a prominent academic. Abbas called him a "patriotic leader."

"Dr. Saeb dedicated his life to the service of the Palestinian people and cause," executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi said.

"Erekat will be remembered for his indefatigable and tireless dedication and commitment to achieving peace and freedom for the Palestinian people."

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Erekat at times clashed with Palestinian leaders over negotiations with Israel. Some Israeli officials found Erekat uncompromising while some Palestinians criticized him for not delivering a Palestinian state.

"He was extremely knowledgeable, with an incredible memory," Israeli senior negotiator Gilad Sher said.

"He was not a simple negotiator [to deal with]. But I always believed that behind that lay the desire to advance the Palestinians' interest, and, yes, to come to an agreement."

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Richard "Dick" Thornburgh, former attorney general of the United States and former governor of Pennsylvania, takes a seat at the witness hearing after U.S. Chief Justice nominee Judge John Roberts testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on September 15, 2005. Thornburgh died on December 31 at age 88. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | License Photo

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