Nelson Mandela, who first visited Israel and the Palestinian territories in 1999, was an ardent supporter of the Palestinian cause and a champion for Middle East peace. File picture: Jerome Delay

Ramallah - Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas paid tribute on Friday to Nelson Mandela's commitment to his people's cause as he mourned the South African liberation icon.

“This is a great loss for all the peoples of the world, and for Palestine,” Abbas said, hailing a “symbol of freedom from colonialism and occupation”.

Mandela, who first visited Israel and the Palestinian territories in 1999, was an ardent supporter of the Palestinian cause and a champion for Middle East peace.

“The Palestinian people will never forget his historic statement that the South African revolution will not have achieved its goals as long as the Palestinians are not free,” Abbas said.

He described Mandela as the “most courageous and important of those who supported us”.

Many Palestinians have taken inspiration from Mandela's successful struggle against apartheid in their decades-long struggle to end Israeli occupation and settlement of the West Bank.

“The name Mandela will stay forever with Palestine and with all Palestinians,” Abbas said. - Sapa-AFP