Martti Ahtisaari (photo), the former president of Finland, has won the Nobel Peace Prize, has announced the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
The selection was announced on Friday by the committee, which gave him the prize for his long career of mediation work, including a 2005 accord between Indonesia and separatists in its Aceh province.
Mr Ahtisaari was chosen to receive the $1.4m prize from a field of 197 candidates.As he handled some of the thorniest of international problems, he has won a worlwide reputation as one of the greatest peacemakers of the 20th century.
During his career, the 71-year-old Finnish native brokered solutions to conflicts in Namibia, Sri Lanka, Iraq, Kosovo and Northern Ireland.
“This is fantastic news. Of course it’s meaningful for the Aceh people. I’ very happy for that”, Joha Christensen, a friend who worked with Mr Ahtisaari during the Aceh peace talks, told Al Jazeera.
Talking of Mr Ahtisaari’s skills as a negotiator, Mr Christensen added : “I think he is able to provide the atmosphere where the parties in a conflict feel they are equal and can concentrate on the issues at the core of the conflict.
“In a dignified way he is the ‘head master’. He brings people back to the real issues, back to reality.”
Success in Indonesia
Aceh is one of Indonesia’s poorest and most underdevelopped provinces. The region was an independent sultanate for centuries, while other parts of the country were colonised by the Dutch.
In 1976, the Geraken Aceh Merdeka (GAM), the Free Aceh Movement, declared that the province had been illegally annexed by Indonesia in 1949. That declaration was followed by decades of fighting in which thousands of people died.
Before Mr Ahtisaari succeeded, peace had been sought numerous times in Aceh, but all attempts had failed. In secret talks between the Indonesian government and the GAM, Mr Ahtisaari mediated negotiations until the conflict ended in 2005.
In order to create a space for both parties to live peacefully, after studying failed peace negotiations, Mr Ahtisaari formed the Aceh Monitoring Mission, with the help of the EU and the Association of South East Asian Nations.