Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ex-Finland Leader Accepts Nobel Peace Prize

From CNN, this year's recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Martti Ahtisaari of Finland, gave his acceptance speech and called on Barack Obama to solve the conflicts in the Middle East.
Ex-Finland Leader Accepts Nobel Peace Prize

(CNN) -- Nobel Peace Prize winner Martti Ahtisaari Wednesday called on U.S. President-elect Barack Obama to "give high priority to the Middle East conflict in his first year in office."

Martti Ahtisaari (left) with King Harald of Norway before the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony
Martti Ahtisaari (left) with King Harald of Norway
before the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony

"All crises, including the one in the Middle East, can be solved," the former Finnish president said in his Nobel acceptance speech. The international community also had to put its weight behind the project, he added, saying its credibility was at stake.

"Peace is a question of will," he said as he received the prize for his efforts to resolve conflicts from Kosovo to Indonesia and Namibia.

"Wars and conflicts are not inevitable," he said, arguing that they are caused by people who have something to gain from them. "All conflicts can be settled."

Ahtisaari was modest about the role of mediators in ending conflicts, saying only the parties themselves could end bloodshed.

He said his own experience as a child, when his hometown in Finland became part of the Soviet Union under a "spheres-of-influence" agreement between German leader Adolf Hitler and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, had influenced his determination to work towards peace.

"We became refugees in our own country," he said of the events that took place when he was two years old.

Ole Danbolt Mjos, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, praised Ahtisaari for brokering an end to the long conflict between Indonesia and separatists in Aceh, leading to extensive autonomy for the region.

Ahtisaari and his organization Crisis Management Initiative "saw opportunities where others only saw conflict," Mjos said.

And he praised the Finn's work in pressing Slobodan Milosevic to end the war in Kosovo in 1999. Ahtisaari put forward an autonomy plan for Kosovo in 2007 which Serbia refused to accept, but Mjos said the province's subsequent declaration of independence came close to mirroring the Ahtisaari plan.

"Ahtisaari's solution for Kosovo has to a large extent been put into practice. Kosovo has become independent. The conflict had no other solution," Mjos said, admitting that in some conflicts, "the parties are too far apart."

He also cited Ahtisaari's 14 years of work in Namibia, starting as United Nations Commissioner there and culminating in the country's independence in 1990.

Read the whole article.

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