Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (right) meets with Martti Ahtisaari (left), Special Envoy for the Future Status Process for Kosovo, at the United Nations, New York, February 2008.
Pix courtesy: UN, Mark Garten


Kunal Majumdar

Former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari has been named the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize 2008.

"Ahtisaari is an outstanding international mediator. Through his untiring efforts and good results, he has shown what role mediation of various kinds can play in the resolution of international conflicts," said Ole Danbolt Mjoes, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee in a press statement.

The committee has cited Ahtisaari's contribution in the establishment of Namibia's independence, his role in finding solution to the complicated Aceh question in Indonesia and his resolve to find solution to the Kosovo conflict.

Finland erupted in joy after the news was announced. Finnish foreign minister Alexander Stubb told CNN that he is thrilled. "There is no one is the world who deserves it more. In Martti Ahtisaari we have a true statesman and a world policy actor," said Stubb.

Ahtisaari, who was Finland's President from 1994 to 2000, has been a favourite to win for years.

"As Finns, we can be proud that our nation's contribution to world peace has been given the highest recognition. We have long traditions in peacekeeping and we are also experienced in civil crisis management. Additionally, we have individuals like Martti Ahtisaari who have with their own efforts and personal capabilities have helped build a more peaceful and fairer world," said Tarja Halonen, President of Finland.

Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen too welcomed the news. "This recognition also serves as an appreciation to Finland for providing a solid basis for President Ahtisaari especially in his outstanding work as a mediator in international conflicts in recent years," said Vanhanen.

The Nobel Prize to Ahtisaari is being seen as recognition of Finnish foreign policy and diplomatic skills. Historically stuck between two powerful neighbours – Sweden and Russia, the country is trying to balance between the pro-US European Union and the ambitious Russia.

This year Finnish foreign minister also occupies the post of chairman at Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Europe's security body.