Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has been awarded the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize for his attempts to end the country's decades-long civil war that claimed the lives of more than 200,000 people, it was announced on Friday.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee said it awarded the prize to Santos for "his resolute efforts" to end Colombia's civil war, even though the peace process recently suffered a setback when voters narrowly rejected a proposed peace accord.
"President Santos initiated the negotiations that culminated in the peace accord between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas, and he has consistently sought to move the peace process forward," the committee said in a press statement.
The committee recognized that the referendum defeat has created "great uncertainty" for the future of Colombia and it called on all parties to continue to respect the ceasefire. "There is a real danger that the peace process will come to a halt and that civil war will flare up again," it said.
But the rejection of the peace accord does not mean the end of the peace process. "The referendum was not a vote for or against peace. What the 'No' side rejected was not the desire for peace, but a specific peace agreement," the committee pointed out.
As such, the Norwegian Nobel Committee called on President Santos to invite all parties to participate in a broad-based national dialogue aimed at advancing the peace process. "The Nobel Committee hopes that all parties will take their share of responsibility and participate constructively in the upcoming peace talks," it said.
The conflict in Colombia began in 1964 and has claimed the lives of more than 200,000 people, although violence has been mostly sporadic over the last few years. Nonetheless, the conflict remains one of the longest civil wars in modern times and the sole remaining armed conflict in the Americas.
The committee praised Santos for having laid the groundwork for both the verifiable disarmament of FARC and a historic process of national fraternity and reconciliation. "It is the Norwegian Nobel Committee's firm belief that President Santos, despite the 'No' majority vote in the referendum, has brought the bloody conflict significantly closer to a peaceful solution," it said.
The Nobel Peace Prize, which is arguably the world's most prestigious award, was last year awarded to Tunisia's National Dialogue Quarter, which was credited for playing a key role in building a pluralistic democracy after the country's revolution, which was the most successful movement of the Arab Spring.
The foundation for the Nobel prizes were laid in 1895 when Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, wrote his last will and dedicated much of his wealth to the establishment of the awards, which honor people for achievements in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and for work in peace. The first prizes were awarded in 1901, several years after Nobel's death.
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