Ahtisaari: "We cannot go on, year after year, simply pretending to do something to help the situation in the Middle East"

Today, Martti Ahtisaar formally accepted this year’s Nobel Peace Prize at a formal banquet in Oslo, Norway.

Ahtisaari was informed on 10 October that he was the winner of the 2008 Nobel Peace prize (See earlier post here ).

In his Nobel Lecture today, he said, among other things, that:

“All conflicts can be resolved Wars and conflicts are not inevitable. They are caused by human beings. There are always interests that are furthered by war. Therefore those who have power and influence can also stop them. Peace is a question of will. All conflicts can be settled, and there are no excuses for allowing them to become eternal. It is simply intolerable that violent conflicts defy resolution for decades causing immeasurable human suffering, and preventing economic and social development. The passivity and impotence of the international community make it more difficult for us to place our faith in jointly built security structures…

“A solution must be found to the Middle East conflict. The most challenging peace-building project ahead of us is finding a solution to the conflicts in the Middle East, which have continued for decades. The tensions and wars in the region have been going on for so long that many have come to believe that the Middle East knot can never be untied. I do not share this belief. All crises, including the one in the Middle East, can be resolved. The solution would require a contribution from all the parties involved as well as the international community as a whole. We might be strengthened in our resolve if we set our sights on the future and imagine what the world could look like if the countries in the region could jointly begin to develop their economic potential, build transport links, make full use of their educated population and begin to reap the benefits of an advantageous location in the crossroads of three continents. I hope that the new President of the United States, who will be sworn in next month, will give high priority to the Middle East conflict during his first year in office. The European Union, Russia and the UN must also be seriously committed so that a solution can be found to the crises stretching from Israel and Palestine to Iraq and Iran. If we want to achieve lasting results, we must look at the whole region. The credibility of the whole international community is at stake. We cannot go on, year after year, simply pretending to do something to help the situation in the Middle East. We must also get results. For many people, tensions between religions have provided an easy explanation for the intractability of the Middle East crisis. I cannot accept this view. During my career I have seen many crises in which religion has been used as a weapon or as an instrument for prolonging the conflict. Religions themselves are, however, peace-loving. They can also be a constructive force in peace-building, and this also applies to the Middle East”.

Ahtisaari also said: “I hope that all those brave women and men that have worked for the peace in their country would feel that they can share this prize with me … We should not accept any excuses from those in power. Peace is a question of will”.

The full text of Martti Ahtisaari’s Nobel Lecture can be found here.

Sorry — this doesn't make sense: Ahtisaari wins what???? The Nobel Peace Prize?

What’s wrong with the Nobel Peace Prize Committee? They couldn’t find anybody better than long-time UN official Martti Ahtisaari to name as this year’s winner. Sorry, this just doesn’t cut it. This is the person who has most contributed to peace in the last year? Or even, let’s say, in recent years? Sorry, at best it could be said that Ahtisaari is a deal-maker. And the deals have to please the powers-that-be. He is a high-level functionary, looking out above all, and always, for his own career trajectory. And he just looks the other way whenever something is inconvenient — including the “human weaknesses” of his own staff. More recently this has come to be known as something else

And it is impossible to imagine him putting himself on the line for anything _ is this what we expect from Nobel Peace Prize winners?

Rather than rant, I will simply pick up a few excerpts from the NYTimes report on this Nobel Peace Prize announcement:

“In a book published by the Brookings Institution, Mr. [Gareth] Evans [former Australian Prime Minister and head of the International Crisis Group, which is a home for out-of-work but still ambitious policy makers who spend quite a lot of time rubbing each other’s backs] wrote that Mr. Ahtisaari ‘combines, to great effect, immense personal charm with a tough, no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is approach to conducting negotiations’. The book quotes one of the negotiators in the Aceh conflict as saying: ‘His method was really extraordinary. He said, “Do you want to win, or do you want peace?£” ‘ Former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright said in an interview that she could not ‘think of a prize that is more richly deserved’. Mr. Ahtisaari’s role in Kosovo, she said, far exceeded his appointment in 2005 to represent the United Nations in ‘final status’ talks to determine the future of what was then a Serbian province. She said he was also deeply involved in the region during the 1996-99 Kosovo War.’He was part of a whole set of diplomatic maneuvers we had during the war itself, in terms of trying to sort out how to deal with the Russians and a host of issues to do with carrying out the actual ending of the war’, she recalled … Ms. Albright said Mr. Ahtisaari had been instrumental in creating ‘a glide path’ toward a final resolution that underpins Kosovo’s independence. ‘When I talked to him just last week, he thought things were moving in the right direction’, she said. ‘He has done a remarkable job’ … Mr. Ahtisaari[‘s] name was selected from a list of 197 nominees … In an interview on Friday that was published on the Nobel Foundation’s Web site, Mr. Ahtisaari said that the international community should not allow conflicts ‘to become frozen’ or intractable. ‘Every conflict can be solved’, he said…”
Yep.
The NYTimes article can be read in full here