NEW YORK - The United States and Afghanistan governments have begun secret three-way talks with the Taliban, Afghan President Hamid Karzai told The Wall Street Journal, disclosing an important breakthrough in efforts to end the 10-year war.

Karzai, whose government had protested being left out of recent talks between Washington and the insurgents, added he believes most Taliban are "definitively" interested in a peace settlement.

"There have been contacts between the U.S. government and the Taliban, there have been contacts between the Afghan government and the Taliban, and there have been some contacts that we have made, all of us together, including the Taliban," Karzai was quoted as saying in the interview with the Journal in Kabul.

He declined to specify the location of the talks or go into further detail, saying he feared that could damage the process.

Karzai's remarks suggest progress in tentative peace efforts as President Barack Obama begins withdrawing forces and prepares for the transfer of security responsibilities to Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

U.S. officials cautioned against reading too much into what came out of the three-way session, which was held in the past month to prepare the ground for further contacts, the Journal said.

Taliban spokesmen couldn't be reached to comment, according to the newspaper.

Meetings between Taliban emissaries and the U.S. in recent months have centered on opening a Taliban office in the Persian Gulf emirate of Qatar, and on confidence-building measures such as a possible transfer to Qatar of Taliban detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, U.S. and Taliban officials said.

A senior Obama administration official said the U.S. had assured Karzai that "all we were interested in was seeing if we could open the door for Afghan-to-Afghan talks."