WASHINGTON, June 25 (UPI) -- The U.S. and Afghan presidents agreed on the need for an Afghan-led reconciliation effort and expressed support for an office in Qatar, the White House said.
The conference was held in the background of efforts to start the peace talks among the United States, Afghanistan and the Taliban at the recently-opened Taliban office in Doha, Qatar. However, the opening of the office drew the ire of the Karzai government over the display of the Taliban flag and name plate.
The signs and the flag were later removed but the Karzai government has said its High Peace Council would take part in the peace process only if it is Afghan-led.
In their video conference, 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, 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."
The two leaders held their video conference on the same day when militants launched another deadly bombing and gun battle attack in a highly secure area of the Afghan capital near the presidential palace. The attack, claimed by the Taliban, ended after Afghan security forces killed four militants while losing three of their own.
U.S. Ambassador James B. Cunningham, in a statement, condemned the attack, calling on the Taliban to end the violence and "come to the table to talk to the Afghanistan government about peace and reconciliation."
Obama and Karzai also discussed the transition of operational lead from coalition to Afghan security forces earlier this month, preparations for Afghanistan's 2014 elections and the negotiation of a bilateral security agreement.
Afghan security forces last week took over responsibility for the country's security from NATO's ISAF as the coalition forces prepare to end their combat operations next year.
"The two presidents reaffirmed that free, fair, and credible elections would be critical to Afghanistan's future," the White House said.