Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Friday said the Nobel Peace Prize was a “gift from heaven” and gave a “tremendous push” to reach a new agreement with FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) rebels.
Speaking at a news conference in Oslo on the eve of the prize ceremony, Mr. Santos said the prestigious award “came like a gift from heaven because it gave us a tremendous push” to achieve a new peace deal with FARC after Colombian voters narrowly rejected an initial agreement in an October referendum.
“People in Colombia interpreted it as a mandate from the international community to persevere, to continue striving to achieve a peace agreement,” Mr. Santos said.
The accord, signed with pens made from bullet casings on September 26 after nearly four years of talks, was supposed to be ratified in an October 2 referendum. But voters rejected it, leaving Colombia teetering between war and peace.
Five days later, Santos was announced as the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
His government and the Marxist FARC rebels then signed a renegotiated peace accord on November 24.
The country’s five-decade conflict has killed more than 260,000 people, left 45,000 missing and forced nearly seven million to flee their homes. Mr. Santos brought no members of the leftist FARC rebel group to Oslo for the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony because he didn’t want to “create a problem” for the Norwegian government. “They will be here in heart and spirit,” Mr. Santos said of the rebel group, with whom he recently reached a peace agreement.
Mr. Santos will collect the Nobel Peace Prize on Saturday. The prize went to him alone and not the FARC, which is still designated as a terrorist group by many countries. The FARC leadership is unable to travel outside of Colombia because they face international arrest orders by the U.S. on drug-trafficking charges. Mr. Santos said procedures are underway in Colombia “in order for them to be completely free to go around the world.” — AFP/AP