Obama would discuss the plan with Colombian President Juan Manual
Santos during a White House visit on Thursday, and invite U.S.
lawmakers to participate in two events aimed at showing support for
the potential deal that would end Latin America's longest war.
The fight between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary
Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) has killed more than 220,000 people
and displaced millions more since it began in 1964. Three previous
attempts at a peace accord failed.
After almost four years of talks, an elusive peace deal may finally
be in sight, said Bernard Aronson, the U.S. envoy to the
"I think there's a real prospect for success and signing of a peace
accord this year, hopefully within the first half of this year,"
Aronson told reporters on a conference call.
Under the deal, FARC rebels would disarm, and the government would
need to expand health and education services into areas of the
country that had been controlled by the group - two areas where
expanded U.S. financial aid could help, said Mark Feierstein, a
senior director at the White House National Security Council.
"One of the biggest challenges will be to demobilize the FARC and
ensure their reintegration into society as constructive members,"
Feierstein declined to comment on how much additional aid Obama
The United States has long been a donor to Colombia, providing
almost $10 billion in aid between 2000 and 2015 through a program
called Plan Colombia, according to the Congressional Research
[to top of second column]
Colombia's government on Tuesday warned the country's second-largest
rebel group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), that time is
running out to begin peace negotiations to end five decades of war.
Any ELN talks would be independent of those with the FARC.
On Thursday, Santos meets with Vice President Joe Biden and a group
of U.S. senators at Biden's residence to talk about the peace
process and the future of U.S. support for Colombia, before later
meeting Obama in the Oval Office.
Obama and Santos were also expected to discuss ways the two
countries can work together to fight the Zika virus, Feierstein
(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Grant
[© 2016 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2016 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.