Colombian president urges final push after Nobel Peace Prize win

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Friday called his winning the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize "great recognition" for his country and "the people who have suffered" in its long-running conflict.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee cited Santos for his "resolute efforts" to end the 52-year-long civil war and for bringing the bloody conflict "significantly closer to a peaceful solution."

The conflict between the Colombian government and the left-wing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group - one of the longest civil wars in modern times - has cost the lives of at least 220,000 Colombians.

"This is a great, great recognition for my country and with all humbleness I receive it," he told the Stockholm-based Nobel Foundation's media group after the announcement in Oslo, Norway.

Santos believed a deal to end the conflict with the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) movement was "very close."

"We just need to push a bit further, to persevere, and this is going to be a great stimulus to reach that end, and to start the construction of peace in Colombia," he added.

He believed his government will also soon reach a peace deal with the leftist National Liberation Army (ELN), saying the peace prize is "a stimulus from the whole world that we have to reach an agreement very soon."

After nearly four years of negotiations, mainly conducted in Cuba, Santos and FARC guerrilla leader Rodrigo Londono signed a peace accord on September 26 at a ceremony in Cartagena, Colombia.

Colombians however narrowly rejected the treaty on Sunday in a nationwide referendum, with many seeing concessions made to the guerrilla group as too lenient.

Colombian government and FARC negotiators said Friday they will pursue a peace process. "We believe [the agreement] contains the necessary reforms and measures to lay the foundations of peace and ensure the end of the armed conflict," read a joint statement issued in the Cuban capital, Havana. They said criticisms made by the treaty's opponents would be worked into fresh negotiations, and both sides would adhere to a ceasefire, with a UN mission to monitor it. Colombia's former president Alvaro Uribe, who campaigned against a peace agreement with FARC, while congratulating Santos for the Nobel Peace Prize, stated he hoped "[Santos] manages to change agreements that are harmful to democracy."

Those involved in the Colombia peace process had long been tipped as strong contenders for the prize, but many Nobel observers thought that their chances had faded after the "no" vote.

"The people of Colombia did not say 'no' to peace," Nobel Committee chairwoman Kaci Kullmann Five told reporters. "They said no to this particular agreement."

Asked why the committee opted not to split the prize, for instance including FARC leader Londono, known as Timochenko, she cited Santos' efforts as head of state to secure a peace deal, saying "he went 'all in'... with a strong will to reach a result."

Ingrid Betancourt, held captive by FARC guerilla forces for more than six years, said her former captors deserved to share the award.

"I believe that it's not only deserved, but this is also a moment of reflection for Colombia - the hope for peace, the joy to be able to say that peace will not turn back."

The Oslo-based panel considered a record 376 nominations for this year's prize.

Tributes to Santos and Colombia streamed in after the announcement.

One of the 148 organizations tipped in the running this year, the Syrian volunteer group White Helmets, congratulated Santos as did among others UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, and former Costa Rican president and 1987 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Oscar Arias.

The prize, worth 8 million kronor (930,000 dollars), was endowed by Swedish industrialist and dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel.

The award to Colombia was the first to Latin America since 1992.

Last year, the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, an alliance of trade unions, employers organizations, human rights groups and lawyers, won the award.

Last update: Sat, 08/10/2016 - 09:49

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