Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos.jpg
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos
Photograph: EPA/EFRAIN HERRERA/PRESIDENCY OF COLOMBIA / HANDOUT

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who Friday won the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize, said it was a great recognition for his country and "the people who have suffered" in its long-running conflict.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee cited Santos for his "resolute efforts" to end the 52-year-long civil war and for bringing the bloody conflict "significantly closer to a peaceful solution."

The conflict between the Colombian government and the left-wing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group - one of the longest civil wars in modern times - has cost the lives of at least 220,000 Colombians.

"This is a great, great recognition for my country and with all humbleness I receive it," he told the Stockholm-based Nobel Foundation's media group after the announcement in Oslo, Norway.

"I am terribly grateful," Santos added.

Santos believed a deal to end the conflict with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) movement was "very close."

"We just need to push a bit further, to persevere, and this is going to be a great stimulus to reach that end, and to start the construction of peace in Colombia," he added.

He believed his government will also soon reach a peace deal with the leftist National Liberation Army (ELN), saying the peace prize is "a stimulus from the whole world that we have to reach an agreement very soon."

"The award should also be seen as a tribute to the Colombian people who, despite great hardships and abuses, have not given up hope of a just peace," the committee said.

After nearly four years of negotiations, Santos and FARC guerrilla leader Rodrigo Londono signed a peace accord on September 26 at a ceremony in Cartagena, Colombia.

The treaty, signed with a pen forged from a recycled bullet, included provisions for FARC political participation as well as rural reforms and reintegration of demobilized guerrillas into civilian life.

But Colombians narrowly rejected the treaty on Sunday in a nationwide referendum, with many seeing the concessions made to the guerrilla group as too lenient.

Santos has since opened a national dialogue on the peace process, and both Santos and Londono have signaled their willingness to maintain peace while searching for a way forward.

Colombia's former president Alvaro Uribe, who campaigned against a peace agreement with FARC, congratulated Santos for the Nobel Peace Prize, saying he hoped "[Santos] manages to change agreements that are harmful to democracy."

Those involved in the Colombia peace process had long been tipped as strong contenders for the prize, but many Nobel observers thought that their chances had faded after the "no" vote.

"The people of Colombia did not say 'no' to peace," Nobel Committee chairwoman Kaci Kullmann Five told reporters. "They said no to this particular agreement."

Asked why the committee opted not to split the prize, for instance including FARC leader Rodrigo Londono, known as Timochenko, she cited Santos' efforts as head of state to secure a peace deal, saying "he went 'all in'... with a strong will to reach a result."

The Oslo-based panel considered a record 376 nominations for this year's prize.

Tributes to Santos and Colombia streamed in after the announcement.

One of the 148 organizations tipped in the running this year, the Syrian volunteer group White Helmets, congratulated Santos as did among others UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, and former Costa Rica president and 1987 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Oscar Arias.

The prize, worth 8 million kronor (930,000 dollars), was endowed by Swedish industrialist and dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel.

The award to Colombia was the first to Latin America since 1992.

Last year, the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, an alliance of trade unions, employers organizations, human rights groups and lawyers, won the award.

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