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Obama on Colombia: ‘Still work to be done’

President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State showered Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos with praise after he won the Nobel Peace Prize last week despite being unable to get his peace agreement with leftist rebels ratified by Colombian citizens.

Calling Santos his “friend and partner,” Obama answered those who questioned giving Santos the award saying that the Nobel Committee made the right decision in “welcoming his tireless efforts to bring a just and lasting peace to Colombia,” and sending a message that the pursuit of peace must be supported.

“The democratic vote this week is a reminder that there is still work to be done to realize the future for which President Santos and so many citizens are striving, but it’s also a sign that the national dialogue Colombia needs is taking place now and is building on the momentum created by four years of difficult,” Obama said.

The work of peace is never finished. Vice President Joe Biden

The Obama administration, much like the rest of the world, was surprised when Colombian citizens narrowly defeated a peace deal that would have ended more than a half century of conflict with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. The war has cost the lives of more than 220,000 and displaced six million people.

The highlight of the deal included an end to the fighting, reintegrating thousands of fighters back into society, returning child soldiers to their families and reestablishing the rule of law in rebel-held areas. But many Colombian citizens couldn’t swallow the idea of protecting the rebel leaders responsible for such atrocities from jail time and actually offering them seats in Congress.

Although the Colombian people did not vote to ratify the negotiated peace agreement, Biden said they “have not turned their back on the idea of peace.” Biden encouraged the Colombian public to “keep the faith.”

“The work of peace is never finished,” he said.

The democratic vote this week is a reminder that there is still work to be done to realize the future. President Barack Obama

The administration recognizes and respects the decision of the Colombian people opposing the agreement, but Kerry said he hoped the Nobel award lends new momentum toward an agreement that will be more broadly accepted.

“We continue to believe that most Colombians urgently desire a definitive end to the violence,” Kerry said.

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