International response to Nobel Peace Prize recipient: Don't give up

President Obama and many others have called the Colombian president to offer congratulations and support for Santos's ongoing efforts to end the Colombian civil war. 

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters/File
President Obama shakes hands with Colombian President Juan Manual Santos during their meeting in New York September 21, 2016. Mr. Obama called Mr. Santos Friday night to congratulate him on winning the Nobel Peace Prize, and to encourage him in his ongoing efforts to establish peace in Colombia.

The White House says President Obama has spoken with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to congratulate him on being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee honored Mr. Santos's efforts to end the longest conflict in the Western Hemisphere, a civil war that has killed more than 200,000 Colombians and left more than 7 million displaced from their homes.

The committee called the award "a tribute to the Colombian people who, despite great hardships and abuses, have not given up hope of a just peace, and to all the parties who have contributed to the peace process."

Santos said Friday he was deeply honored by the Nobel Peace Prize, which he dedicated to the people of his country.

"This is a great, great recognition for my country," he said. "I receive this award in their name: the Colombian people who have suffered so much in this war ... that we are on the verge of ending."

During their conversation on Friday evening, Mr. Obama also reiterated US support for the Colombian peace process, said White House spokesman Eric Schultz. In earlier remarks, Obama had called the award a testament to Santos's "unwavering and courageous" leadership, through years of difficult negotiations with Colombian rebels, seeking to produce an accord that would end five decades of armed conflict.

In her message of congratulations, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, "I wish you and the Colombian people great strength, stamina and success in the future in taking the next steps on the way to lasting peace."

UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi said the prize recognized Santos's "political courage." During his recent trip to Colombia, he said, he noticed an "extraordinary commitment" by Santos' government, the rebels, and civil society to make a peace plan in the country work.

Mr. Grandi noted the relevance to his agency's work: With with over 7 million internally displaced people, Colombia is facing the "largest internal displacement situation" in the world.

The prize committee did not cite his counterpart in peace negotiations, Rodrigo Londoño, the leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), who is also known by his nom de guerre, Timochenko.

Santos and Londoño signed a peace deal last month ending a half-century of hostilities only to see their efforts collapse following a shock vote against the agreement in a referendum six days later.

Londoño reacted to the news on Twitter, saying that the only prize the rebels want is peace with social justice and "Colombia without paramilitaries, without retaliations, and without lies."

Renewed hope for peace?

The prize did appear to give new energy to the peace talks. 

Negotiators for Colombia's government and FARC say they're taking steps to guarantee a cease-fire doesn't unravel while the two sides work together to save the peace accord defeated in a referendum.

At a joint press conference in Havana on Friday afternoon, the two sides read a joint statement in which they pledged to listen to those who voted against the peace deal to "define quickly" a solution to the impasse in accordance with a recent constitutional court ruling.

The statement says: "The proposed adjustments and precisions that come about from this process will be discussed between the government and the FARC to provide guarantees to everyone."

The two sides invited the United Nations to begin monitoring a cease-fire already in place.

In announcing the award, the Nobel committee acknowledged that Colombia's road to peace may not be smooth. “There is a real danger that the peace process will come to a halt and that civil war will flare up again,” said Kaci Kullman Five, the committee chairwoman. 

“The fact that a majority of the voters said no to the peace accord does not necessarily mean that the peace process is dead," she emphasized. "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.”

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