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Afghanistan, U.S. move closer in security talks

 Afghanistan, U.S. move closer in security talks
Secretary of State John Kerry during a news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan on Saturday. (S. Sabawoon / European Pressphoto Agency)

KABUL, Afghanistan -- A full day of talks Saturday between Secretary of State John Kerry and Afghan President Hamid Karzai failed to yield a decisive breakthrough on a security agreement amid questions over immunity for U.S. troops.

The two sides appeared to move closer, however, after lengthy discussions that lasted late into the evening. Karzai said the issue of which country has jurisdiction after 2014 over any crimes committed by remaining U.S. forces would have to be resolved by an assembly of elders known as a loya jirga and the Afghan parliament.

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"It was a hard discussion," Karzai told reporters at a news conference that had been postponed three times as talks were extended. "Afghanistan had its own vision and interests and the United States had its own vision and interests."

Kerry said the U.S. could prosecute any crimes committed by American armed forces.

"The one issue that is outstanding is the issue of jurisdiction," Kerry said at an evening news conference alongside Karzai. "We need to say that if the issue of jurisdiction cannot be resolved, unfortunately there cannot be a bilateral security agreement."

Other than the jurisdiction issue, Karzai said, a draft framework agreement includes his demands for the protection of Afghan sovereignty and rules on how military operations are carried out on Afghan territory.

"Tonight we reached some sort of agreement," Karzai told reporters. U.S. forces "will no longer conduct operations by themselves. We have been provided a written guarantee of the safety of the Afghan people. And a clear definition of 'invasion' was provided."

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Special correspondent Baktash reported from Kabul and Times staff writer Magnier from New Delhi.

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