WASHINGTON — US President Barack Obama talked with Hamid Karzai Monday about Afghan-led reconciliation moves following the Afghan president’s talks with the leaders of Pakistan and Iran, the White House said.
The telephone conversation also followed Karzai’s assertion in a newspaper interview last week that his government was involved in talks with the Taliban, both with and without the United States.
“They discussed regional support for Afghan-led reconciliation, the Afghanistan-Pakistan-Iran trilateral meetings last week in Islamabad, and other strategic issues of mutual concern,” the White House said in a statement.
“They agreed to speak again soon to remain closely aligned as both countries continue our efforts to achieve common goals, and work to forge a long-term partnership,” it said.
Karzai went to Islamabad on Friday and met with Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as part of an effort to get regional support for a negotiated solution to the 10-year-old war in Afghanistan.
Relations between Kabul and Islamabad are traditionally mired in distrust, but both sides have made overtures towards reconciliation to facilitate talks with the Taliban, over which Pakistan is considered to have influence.
Ahmadinejad, for his part, used his presence in Islamabad to blame all of the region’s problems on foreign interference but said he was there to solidify cooperation with Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Karzai, meanwhile, told the Wall Street Journal in an interview that his government was involved in secret three-way contacts with the US and the Taliban — a claim the insurgent militia denied but the White House confirmed.
With US combat forces due to be out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014, the pressure is growing for diplomacy aimed at bringing the parties to the conflict together to work out a negotiated solution.
Washington has said it is open to a dialogue subject to certain conditions, namely that Taliban members who want to take part must lay down their arms, renounce Al-Qaeda and pledge allegiance to the Afghan constitution.
The Taliban said last month that they planned to set up a political office in Qatar ahead of possible formal talks with the United States, and Afghan and US officials have said that exploratory contacts are already under way.