Top PLO official Saeb Erekat diagnosed with coronavirus

Chief Palestinian negotiator and longtime diplomat says he has light symptoms; PA President Abbas met him four days ago but has since tested negative

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat in Cairo, Egypt, in 2011. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat in Cairo, Egypt, in 2011. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)

Senior Palestinian Liberation Organization official Saeb Erekat has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the longtime Palestinian diplomat said on Thursday night.

Erekat is currently in isolation in his house in the West Bank city of Jericho, and has canceled all his appointments until he recovers from the virus. He has experienced light coronavirus symptoms, including a fever.

One of the architects of the Oslo peace accords, Erekat has been the PLO’s chief negotiator since 1995. Erekat has led numerous rounds of peace talks with Israel for over two decades and continues to play a central role in Palestinian politics.

Erekat is considered to be at high risk for complications from the virus. He survived both a mild heart attack in 2012 and a 2017 lung transplant after years of suffering from pulmonary fibrosis, a condition which scars the lungs and damages their ability to circulate oxygen.

Erekat met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas four days ago during a meeting of the PLO Executive Committee. According to Erekat, all the officials who attended the meeting were tested and found to be negative.

“They’ve tested everyone [at the meeting] and they’re okay,” Erekat said.

Last week, the Hamas terror group announced that its deputy political chief, Saleh al-Arouri, had been diagnosed with coronavirus. Only a few days earlier, al-Arouri conducted talks in Istanbul with senior officials from Fatah, the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority.

So far, Hamas has not provided any updates on al-Arouri’s condition, nor has Fatah announced whether any members of its delegation were infected.

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