Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos has said he is deeply honoured to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end a five-decade civil war that has killed more than 200,000 people.
“I receive this with great emotion,” he told the Nobel Foundation in an audio interview posted on its Facebook account.
“This is a great, great recognition for my country. I am eternally grateful. I receive this award in their name: the Colombian people who have suffered so much in this war. Especially the millions of victims that have suffered in this war that we are on the verge of ending.”
The award comes days after Colombian voters rejected the peace deal Mr Santos helped bring about, and Nobel judges conspicuously left out his counterpart, Rodrigo Londono, leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc)
“The referendum was not a vote for or against peace,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee said, insisting the peace process was not dead.
What the No side rejected was not the desire for peace, but a specific peace agreement.”
Colombian voters rejected the deal on Sunday by the narrowest of margins – less than half a percentage point – over concerns that the rebels, who were behind scores of atrocities, were getting a sweetheart deal.
Under the terms of the accord, rebels who turn over their weapons and confess their crimes could be spared jail time and Farc would be guaranteed 10 seats in congress until 2026.
Mr Santos and Mr Londono, better known by his nom de guerre Timochenko, signed the peace deal last month after more than four years of negotiations in Cuba. Six days after the deal was signed, Colombians rejected it in the referendum.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee said it believes Mr Santos, despite the No vote, “has brought the bloody conflict significantly closer to a peaceful solution”.
It is the first time the peace prize has gone to Latin America since 1992.