OSLO // Colombia’s peace deal between the government and the Marxist Farc rebels is a model for war-torn countries such as Syria, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said on Saturday as he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize.
The peace accord, signed on November 24 to end five decades of conflict, was a model for other unresolved armed conflicts around the world.
“It proves that what, at first, seems impossible, through perseverance may become possible even in Syria or Yemen or South Sudan,” said Mr Santos said during a lavish ceremony at Oslo’s City Hall, which was decked out in red, orange and white roses and carnations imported from Colombia for the occasion.
More than 260,000 died in the 52-years of conflict between the Colombian government and the insurgents. Another 45,000 went missing and nearly seven million were forced to flee their homes. The first peace deal struck with Farc was rejected in a popular vote on October 2, but the rebels and the government negotiated a new accord.
While he described the peace agreement as “a ray of hope in a world troubled by so many conflicts and so much intolerance,” the hardest part of the peace process was yet to come. “It is a more difficult phase than the (negotiation) process itself, and will require a lot of effort, perseverance and humility,” said Mr Santos. “A lot of coordination efforts will also be needed ... to bring the benefits of peace to the regions that have suffered the most in the conflict.”
And he could not guarantee a peace deal with Colombia’s second-largest rebel group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), before the end of his mandate in 2018.
“I will do my best but to establish a time frame is always counterproductive in negotiations of this sort,” he said.
In a speech at the ceremony, Berit Reiss-Andersen, deputy chairwoman of the Nobel committee, urged all sides in Colombia to carry on the national dialogue and continue on the road to reconciliation.
The Nobel Prize consists of a gold medal, a diploma and a cheque for eight million Swedish kronor (824,000 euros, $871,000), a sum Santos promised to donate to the victims of the war.
Later on Saturday, another ceremony in Stockholm honoured the Nobel laureates in the sciences, economics and literature — with one notable absentee. Bob Dylan, this year’s recipient of the Nobel for literature, and the first songwriter to be awarded the prestigious prize did not attend the glittering ceremony due to “pre-existing commitments”.
The no-show has created a stir in Sweden, where it has been perceived as a slight towards the Swedish Academy, which awards the literature prize, and the Nobel Foundation.
Announced as the winner on October 14, Dylan waited almost two weeks to publicly acknowledge the accolade, a silence one Academy member termed “impolite and arrogant”.
Dylan did ultimately say he was honoured to win, but then informed the Academy in mid-November that he would not be travelling to Stockholm to accept his prize.
“A slap in the face,” remarked Lena Mellin, editorial writer at ftonbladet, one of Sweden’s biggest daily newspapers. “Anyone who has ever received a prize, even if it’s just for being the best neighbour in the apartment building, knows that the least one can do is go and accept it,” she wrote.
On social media, opinions were mixed.
“If it were me, I would probably ... collect a Nobel Prize and $900,000. But it’s Bob, and that’s part of what makes him Bob,” wrote fan Evan Sarzin on the singer’s Facebook page.
“He is 75, give him a break,” argued another, Karen Lunebach.
The singer-songwriter has sent a thank-you speech to be read at the gala banquet at Stockholm’s City Hall, attended by around 1,300 guests and the Swedish royal family.
American rock star Patti Smith will sing Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” during the formal prize ceremony at Stockholm’s Concert Hall.
According to the Nobel Foundation, his prize should be presented to him in person sometime in 2017, either in Sweden or abroad.
* Agence France-Presse