Nobel Peace Prize: Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos says award should inspire people to cement peace deal

The Nobel authorities in Oslo made the award, despite the failure of the Colombian people to ratify a peace deal

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Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has said the award of the Nobel Peace Prize should be the stimulus for all his citizens to make the final push to conclude a stalled peace accord with leftist rebels. 

Woken up by his son early on Friday and informed that he had been given the award – a decision that drew plenty of comment and criticism around the world – the President was quick to dedicate it to his country and his fellow Colombians.

“I invite everyone to join our strength, our minds and our hearts in this great national endeavour so that we can win the most important prize of all: peace in Colombia,” Ms Santos said, standing alongside his wife.

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President Santos spoke at the presidential palace (AP)

In an interview with the Nobel Prize authorities that was posted on Facebook, Mr Santos, who was elected in 2010, said he received the honour emotionally.

“It’s something that will be important for my country and the people who have suffered for this war, and the victims,” he said. “The Colombian people, and the victims are very important. I receive the award in their name.”

Announcing its decision in Oslo, the Nobel committee praised Mr Santos’s “resolute efforts to bring the country's more than 50-year-long civil war to an end”.

Mr Santos’s peace deal with Farc guerrillas, who have for decades fought against the government and claimed to represent the nation’s peasant underclass, was the the result of four years of negotiations. It seemed set for agreement, but was narrowly rejected in a national referendum on Sunday. 

The peace deal had been signed by both Mr Santos and Farc leader Timoleon “Timochenko” Jimenez. Having it approved by voters was considered just a formality; as such, the result of the referendum was no small shock.

The Nobel committee said that despite the result of the referendum, Mr Santos “has brought the bloody conflict significantly closer to a peaceful resolution”.

“The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2016 to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos for his resolute efforts to bring the country’s more than 50-year-long civil war to an end, a war that has cost the lives of at least 220,000 Colombians and displaced close to six million people. It is believed to be the longest-running conflict in the Western Hemisphere," it said.

The Associated Press said that many Colombians credit Mr Santos’s conservative predecessor, Alvaro Uribe, for forcing the Farc rebels to the negotiating table by leading a US-backed military offensive that pushed them to the edges of the jungle during his 2002-2010 presidency. 

Mr Santos was Mr Uribe’s defence minister most of those years but the two later angrily split and Mr Uribe led the “no” campaign against the peace deal in Sunday’s vote. However, on Friday he was among those to offer their praise to the President.

“I congratulate President Santos for the Nobel,” Mr Uribe said on Twitter. “I hope it leads to a chance in the accords that are damaging for our democracy.”

The head of Farc said the only reward he wanted is an end to Colombia's entrenched conflict. 

Mr Jimenez (also known as Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri), who was overlooked by the Nobel committee, reacted to the news of the prize for Mr Santos with a message on Twitter that's bound to lend itself to multiple interpretations. 

He said that the only prize the rebels want is peace with social justice and “Colombia without paramilitaries, without retaliations and without lies”. 

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the choice of Mr Santos was a “timely message” to all people working toward national reconciliation. 

He said the awarding of the prize “tells them to keep working until they have brought the peace process to a successful conclusion”. 

He said the results of last Sunday’s vote “should not divide the millions of Colombians who strive to build a peaceful country”.

“This award says to them: you have come too far to turn back now. The peace process should inspire our world.” he said.

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