Obama: Afghan government and Taliban leaders must talk

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Afghans must engage in dialogue to achieve a resolution in the country’s conflict, despite mistrust between the government and the Taliban, U.S. President Barack Obama said on Wednesday.

Obama was speaking in Berlin a day after his administration said it would begin dialogue with the Taliban this week in order to negotiate peace after 12 years of war.

Suggestions of talks from the White House has deeply upset Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s U.S.-backed government, who has suspended talks with the U.S. on a troop agreement.

But Obama said he welcomed Karzai’s announcement that Afghan forces would soon take responsibility for security from the U.S.-led NATO peacekeeping force.

“We do think that ultimately we’re going to need to see Afghans talking to Afghans about how they can move forward and end the cycle of violence there so they can start actually building their country,” Obama said at a joint news conference in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Obama arrived in Germany from a two-day summit with G8 leaders in Northern Ireland and later on Wednesday will unveil plans for a sharp reduction in nuclear warheads in a speech at the Brandenburg Gate.

“Afghan-led” peace process

The Afghan government on Wednesday threatened to boycott planned talks with the Taliban in Qatar announced by the United States, saying the peace process had to be “Afghan-led.”

“The latest developments show that foreign hands are behind the Taliban’s Qatar office and, unless they are purely Afghan-led, the High Peace Council will not participate in talks,” a statement said.

The High Peace Council is the government body in charge of leading peace efforts with the Taliban.

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