‘’It is with great sadness that I learned that Saeb Erekat, Secretary General of the PLO Executive Committee, passed away today,’’ said EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell in a statement on Tuesday.
The chief Palestinian negotiator died of complications related to COVID-19. He was 65 years old. Having undergone a lung transplant in 2017, he was at a particularly high risk of complications from the respiratory disease.
He was rushed to the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem on Oct. 18, after his condition took a turn for the worse. When his condition continued to deteriorate the following night, his family was asked to come and see him for what proved to be the last time.
Hadassah’s top physicians were involved in his care, and the hospital said it was “conferring with international medical professionals regarding this type of complex patient care policy.”
‘’His passing away represents a great loss for the Palestinian people and for the Middle East Peace Process,’’ said Borrell.
‘’During his life Saeb Erekat tirelessly sought to fulfil the legitimate aspirations of his people. As a key participant to the negotiations for the Oslo Accords, he always advocated a just and lasting negotiated two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,’’ he dded.
‘’He personally contributed to developing close relations between the EU and Palestine. I am grateful to him for his contribution in this regard.’’
A top Fatah member and a close confidant of Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas, Erekat has been a high-profile member of the Palestinian leadership for decades, shaping much of the P.A.’s international policy.
Erekat was born in 1955 in the town of Abu Dis, north of Jerusalem, to a prominent Palestinian family.
In 1972, he moved to San Francisco, where he attended community college. In 1974, he transferred to San Francisco State University, where he earned his undergraduate degree in international relations and a master’s degree in political science. He completed his doctoral degree in peace and conflict studies at Bradford University in the United Kingdom in 1983.
After earning his PhD, Erekat moved to Nablus to lecture in political science at An-Najah National University. He was also a board member of the Palestinian daily Al Quds for 12 years.
Erekat was an early advocate of negotiations with Israel and throughout the 1980s, he often argued that the conflict with Israel had no military solution. In 1991, he was named deputy head of the Palestinian delegation to the Madrid Conference and the subsequent follow-up talks in Washington between 1992 and 1993, and helped shaped the Oslo Accords, on which the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is based.