(CNN) -- Nobel Peace Prize winner Martti Ahtisaari Wednesday called on U.S. President-elect Barack Obama to "give high priority to the Middle East conflict in his first year in office."
Martti Ahtisaari (left) with King Harald of Norway before the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony
"All crises, including the one in the Middle East, can be solved," the former Finnish president said in his Nobel acceptance speech, even as he admitted it was "the most challenging peace-building project ahead of us.
"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," he said as he received the prize for his efforts to resolve conflicts from Kosovo to Indonesia and Namibia.
The international community also had to put its weight behind the project, he added, saying its credibility was at stake.
"Peace is a question of will. Wars and conflicts are not inevitable," he said, arguing that they are caused by people who have something to gain from them. "All conflicts can be settled." Watch Ahtisaari on the art of negotiating »
Ahtisaari was modest about the role of mediators in ending conflicts, saying only the parties themselves could end bloodshed. "The only people that can make peace are the parties to the conflict," he said.
He said his own experience as a child, when his hometown in Finland became part of the Soviet Union under a "spheres-of-influence" agreement between German leader Adolf Hitler and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, had influenced his determination to work towards peace.
"We became refugees in our own country," he said of the events that took place when he was two years old. See past winners of the Nobel Peace Prize »
Ole Danbolt Mjos, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, praised Ahtisaari for brokering an end to the long conflict between Indonesia and separatists in Aceh, leading to extensive autonomy for the region.
Ahtisaari and his organization Crisis Management Initiative "saw opportunities where others only saw conflict," Mjos said.
And he praised the Finn's work in pressing Slobodan Milosevic to end the war in Kosovo in 1999. Ahtisaari put forward an autonomy plan for Kosovo in 2007 which Serbia refused to accept, but Mjos said the province's subsequent declaration of independence came close to mirroring the Ahtisaari plan.
"Ahtisaari's solution for Kosovo has to a large extent been put into practice. Kosovo has become independent. The conflict had no other solution," Mjos said, admitting that in some conflicts, "the parties are too far apart."
He also cited Ahtisaari's 14 years of work in Namibia, starting as United Nations Commissioner there and culminating in the country's independence in 1990. Watch Ahtisaari on Africa »
"No single diplomat did more than he did to deliver Namibia's independence," Mjos said. He noted that many Namibian boys had been named Martti, which he said "must be at least as great an honor as being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize."
As a Nobel Peace laureate, Ahtisaari joins a group of 96 individuals and 20 organizations, including the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk, Amnesty International, and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The prize has been awarded most years since 1901 with funds from a committee established by Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite.
Nobel prizes are also awarded in chemistry, physics, medicine, literature and economics.
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