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Reactions to death of PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - Tributes came from both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and from around the world after the death of Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator who died in Jerusalem on Tuesday after contracting COVID-19.

FILE PHOTO: Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat meets with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi (not pictured) in Amman, Jordan, September 6, 2020. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed/File Photo

- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas:

“The departure of the brother and the friend, the great fighter Saeb Erekat, represents a big loss for Palestine and for our people.

“We feel deep sorrow for losing him, especially at such difficult times the Palestinian cause is living through.”

- United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres:

“I am grateful to have known Dr. Erekat and to have called him my friend. He was dedicated to the peaceful pursuit of justice, dignity and the legitimate rights of Palestinians to self-determination, sovereignty and statehood.”

“Now is the time to continue his crucial work and end the conflict that has tragically affected the lives of so many.”

- Nickolay Mladenov, U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process:

“I extend my deepest condolences to the family of #SaebErekat and the Palestinian people. You remained convinced that #Israel and #Palestine can live in #peace; never gave up on negotiations; and stood proudly for your people! We will miss you, my friend. May you rest in peace!

- Statement by Erekat’s family.

“Throughout his honourable life, he demonstrated strength, endurance and satisfaction anchoring a win-win situation on Earth or in the skies.

“Saeb has shown an extraordinary patience and resilience, with the same determination that has characterized his career to achieve freedom for Palestine and a just and lasting peace in our region.

“On behalf of the family, we would like to thank you all for the heartfelt thoughts and sincere prayers. Saeb lived a life full of thought, love, forgiveness and peace and he will be dearly missed. May his soul of wisdom spread all around.”

- Tony Blair, former British prime minister and ex-envoy for the Middle East Quartet:

“Saeb Erekat and I had many differences over the peace process and how to bring it to a successful conclusion. But I never doubted for one moment his sincerity, his knowledge or his deep and abiding commitment to the Palestinian people and to peace. He was a legendary negotiator, aware of every intricacy and detail of the ‘two-state solution’ and a tireless advocate of it.

“He dedicated his life to the cause of an independent sovereign State of Palestine and it is tragic that he never lived to see it come into being. But when it does, he will be remembered as one of its core architects. My thoughts and condolences are with his family. May he rest in peace.”

- Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, veteran Palestinian negotiator:

“Today, we mourn the loss of a dear colleague and a Palestinian patriot; someone who loved life and fought hard to secure a life of freedom for himself and his people.

“Personally, I mourn the loss of a friend and colleague with whom I worked since the 1980s in pursuit of our people’s unassailable right to a life of dignity, justice, freedom, and rights, free from the brutality of Israel’s domination and military occupation.”

- U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs:

“The Press Office for Near Eastern Affairs offers condolences on the death of Saeb Erekat. Our hearts and prayers are with his family in these difficult times.”

- Martin Indyk, former U.S. ambassador to Israel:

“Rest In Peace my peace brother. Your commitment to pursuing freedom for your people by peaceful means will shine forever as a beacon that will guide them onwards. May your memory be a blessing to Neama and your family and all those who loved you.”

- Tzipi Livni, former Israeli foreign minister:

“I’m saddened by the death of @ErakatSaeb. Saeb dedicated his life to his people. Reaching Peace is my destiny he used to say. Being sick, he texted me: ‘I’m not finished with what I was born to do.’ My deepest condolences to the Palestinians and his family. He will be missed.”

- Josep Borrell, European Union foreign policy chief:

“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 personally contributed to developing close relations between the EU and Palestine. I am grateful to him for his contribution in this regard.”

- Tzachi Hanegbi, Israeli cabinet minister:

“I can voice sorrow at his death. I know that Israel went to great effort to bring him to recovery... I hope his family know no more pain.”

- Ayman Odeh, chief of the Joint List coalition drawn mainly from Israel’s Arab minority:

“We will remember Saeb Erekat when this great people will celebrate victory and celebrate in Jerusalem, the capital.

“We will remember he who had spent his life for the sake of this people and their legitimate rights.”

- Hazem Qassem, Hamas spokesman:

“We mourn to our people a national leader and a fighter, Doctor Saeb Erekat, and we pay our condolences to his comrades in the Fatah Central Committee and to President Mahmoud Abbas.”

Reporting by Ali Sawafta in Ramallah, Stephen Farrell in Jerusalem, Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza, Rami Ayyub in Tel Aviv; Editing by Angus MacSwan, Nick Macfie and Paul Simao