Obama, Karzai 'reaffirm' Afghan-led peace process with Taliban - White House

WASHINGTON Wed Jun 26, 2013 1:37am BST

Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks during a joint news conference with NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen following a security handover ceremony at a military academy outside Kabul June 18, 2013. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks during a joint news conference with NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen following a security handover ceremony at a military academy outside Kabul June 18, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Omar Sobhani

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday discussed stalled peace talks with the Taliban as U.S. officials struggled to get the discussions on track.

A White House statement said Obama and Karzai held a video conference call in which they also talked about U.S. and Afghan plans for the handover of security to Afghan forces as U.S. troops seek to exit by the end of 2014.

A brazen assault by Taliban militants on Tuesday cast doubt on attempts at peace talks. They attacked key buildings near Afghanistan's presidential palace in Kabul as well as the U.S. CIA headquarters.

The attack came a week after U.S. and Taliban representatives had attempted to meet in the Qatari capital of Doha, a session that was cancelled amid objections from the Afghan government.

Obama and Karzai "reaffirmed that an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process is the surest way to end violence and ensure lasting stability in Afghanistan and the region," the White House said.

"And they reiterated their support for an office in Doha for the purpose of negotiations between the High Peace Council and authorized representatives of the Taliban," it said.

The two leaders discussed the transition of operational leadership from NATO to Afghan security forces earlier this month, the importance of Afghan-led reconciliation efforts, preparations for Afghanistan's 2014 elections, and the negotiation of a bilateral security agreement., the statement said.

Karzai updated Obama on plans for Afghanistan's 2014 elections. "The two presidents reaffirmed that free, fair, and credible elections would be critical to Afghanistan's future," the White House statement said.

Karzai has been president since shortly after the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan that toppled the Taliban government.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton and Steve Holland; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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