The White Helmets have been praised for congratulating the President of Colombia after he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
The group, also known as the Syria Civil Defence, has been hailed as winners of the “people’s vote” after Juan Manuel Santos was awarded the prestigious prize for his efforts to end the 52-year Colombian civil war.
The White Helmets includes hundreds of volunteer search and rescue workers in Syria who risk their lives daily to save others.
Last week volunteers saved a baby who was trapped under rubble following an airstrike in the Syrian city of Idlib.
The group congratulated the President of Colombia for winning the prize on Friday.
Many praised The White Helmets for their “elegant gesture”, with some suggesting they should have been awarded the honour.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee announced on Friday that this year’s peace prize would be awarded to the Colombian President “for his resolute efforts to bring the country’s more than 50-year-long civil war to an end”.
The committee said that the conflict has cost the lives of at least 220,000 Colombians, displacing nearly six million people.
A statement from the committee read: “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, and to all the parties who have contributed to the peace process.
“This tribute is paid, not least, to the representatives of the countless victims of the civil war.”
Santos said that the award was for the victims of the Colombian civil war.
He said: “Thank you from the bottom of my heart and in the name of all the Colombians, especially the victims.”
Santos was commended for initiating negotiations that culminated in the peace accord between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas, and he has consistently sought to move the peace process forward.
Despite succeeding in the negotiations, the peace accord was put to the people in a referendum, who rejected the proposals.
“The fact that a majority of the voters said no to the peace accord does not necessarily mean that the peace process is dead.
“The referendum was not a vote for or against peace.
“What the ‘No’ side rejected was not the desire for peace, but a specific peace agreement.
“The Norwegian Nobel Committee emphasises the importance of the fact that President Santos is now inviting all parties to participate in a broad-based national dialogue aimed at advancing the peace process.
“Even those who opposed the peace accord have welcomed such a dialogue. The Nobel Committee hopes that all parties will take their share of responsibility and participate constructively in the upcoming peace talks,” the committee’s statement read.
“By awarding this year’s Peace Prize to President Juan Manuel Santos, the Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to encourage all those who are striving to achieve peace, reconciliation and justice in Colombia.”
The committee said that they hoped the peace prize would give the Colombian president “strength to succeed in this demanding task”.
The statement continued: “The civil war in Colombia is one of the longest civil wars in modern times and the sole remaining armed conflict in the Americas.
“It is the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s firm belief that President Santos, despite the ‘no’ majority vote in the referendum, has brought the bloody conflict significantly closer to a peaceful solution, and that much of the groundwork has been laid for both the verifiable disarmament of the FARC guerrillas and a historic process of national fraternity and reconciliation.
“His endeavors to promote peace thus fulfil the criteria and spirit of Alfred Nobel’s will.”
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