Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos gestures as he leaves the European Council on June 11, 2015, in Brussels.

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Deadline for peace agreement to end decades-long conflict is March 23

President Obama and Colombian President Santos to commemorate 15 years of security assistance

CNN —  

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos will visit the White House in February just weeks ahead of a March deadline for what could be a historic peace agreement between Bogota and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC) insurgency, the White House said Tuesday.

President Barack Obama and Santos will discuss the state of negotiations at a “defining moment in the process,” the White House said.

When they meet on February 4, Obama and Santos also will commemorate the launching of Plan Colombia, a U.S.-led effort that has provided $10 billion in assistance to Colombia’s government and security forces since 2000, the White House said.

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The armed conflict between the Colombian government and the leftist FARC insurgency began in the 1960s.

While the government’s success on the battlefield helped drive FARC to join peace talks in 2012, attempted ceasefires have collapsed in the past.

Santos plans to put any potential peace deal with FARC – the negotiations have been controversial with some elements in Colombian politics – to a national referendum. The deadline for a deal is March 23.

The U.S. has supported the peace process, including through the appointment of a special envoy in February, the White House noted.