OSLO, Norway / STOCKHOLM, Sweden (UPDATED) – Colombia's peace deal is a model for countries at war like Syria, President Juan Manuel Santos said Saturday, December 10, as he accepted his Nobel Peace Prize, though a ceremony for other laureates was marked by Bob Dylan's no-show.
Despite not attending the gala ceremony in Stockholm due to "pre-existing commitments", the US music icon-cum-literature laureate said in a speech read on his behalf that he was "honored" to receive the award.
His decision not to attend has been perceived by many as a slight towards the Swedish Academy that awards the literature prize and the Nobel Foundation, though they have denied taking offense.
"I'm sorry I can't be with you in person, but please know that I am most definitely with you in spirit and honored to be receiving such a prestigious prize," Dylan said in a speech delivered by the US ambassador in Sweden, Azita Raji.
American rock star Patti Smith, a friend of Dylan's, performed his song "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" during the awards ceremony, stumbling after being overcome by nerves. She apologized to the 1,500 guests and resumed singing after warm applause.
Earlier in the day in Oslo, Santos said in his acceptance speech that the Colombian peace accord, signed on November 24 to end five decades of conflict, was a "model for the resolution of armed conflicts that have yet to be resolved around the world."
"It proves that what, at first, seems impossible, through perseverance may become possible even in Syria or Yemen or South Sudan," Santos said as he collected his prize at a lavish ceremony at Oslo's City Hall, decked out in red, orange and white roses and carnations imported from Colombia for the occasion.
Santos, who wore a dove lapel pin on his dark suit and whose wife donned a white dress with a peace symbol cut-out in the back, said his government was itself inspired by other peace processes in Northern Ireland, South Africa, the Middle East and Central America.
After a first peace deal was rejected in a popular vote on October 2, the rebels and government negotiated a new accord to end the conflict, which has killed more than 260,000 people, left tens of thousands missing and forced nearly seven million to flee their homes.
"The Colombian peace agreement is a ray of hope in a world troubled by so many conflicts and so much intolerance," he said.
Hard part yet to come
Yet in an interview with Agence France-Presse, Santos acknowledged that the hardest part of the country's peace process was yet to come.
The period ahead "is a more difficult phase than the (negotiation) process itself, and will require a lot of effort, perseverance and humility," he said.
"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," he added.
He also said he could offer no guarantees there would be a peace deal in place 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 counter-productive in negotiations of this sort," he said.
In a speech at the ceremony, Berit Reiss-Andersen, deputy chairwoman of the Nobel committee, all sides in Colombia to "continue on the road to reconciliation."
The Nobel prize consists of a gold medal, a diploma and a cheque for 8 million Swedish kronor (824,000 euros, $871,000), a sum Santos promised to donate to the victims of the war.
'Standing on the moon'
In Stockholm, 1,500 guests attended the formal ceremony where the laureates in the sciences, economics and literature were honored, and where the buzz was all about Dylan's absence.
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 honored to win, but then informed the Academy in mid-November that he would not be traveling to Stockholm to accept his prize.
Dylan sent a thank-you speech that was read at the gala banquet at Stockholm's City Hall, attended by around 1,300 guests and the Swedish royal family.
"If someone had ever told me that I had the slightest chance of winning the Nobel Prize, I would have to think that I'd have about the same odds as standing on the moon," he wrote.
According to the Nobel Foundation, his prize should be presented to him in person sometime in 2017, either in Sweden or abroad. – Rappler.com