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Iran hosts Afghanistan peace talks 

Parties to the intra-Afghan talks in Tehran have agreed on the need for an immediate halt to the war in Afghanistan, stressing that violence cannot resolve problems. In a joint statement following the talks, Afghan government and Taliban delegations said all efforts must be focused on political solutions and called for the continuation of dialogue. Meanwhile, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif urged the warring sides to take the opportunity to end the war and prepare the ground for the development of the war-torn country. In an address, Zarif said Iran is ready to facilitate future talks aimed at bringing a lasting peace to the country. Violence in Afghanistan has surged over the past weeks, with government forces and Taliban militants involved in fighting over the control of territories. 

Asia-Pacific Covid-19 surge 

Several countries in the Asia-Pacific region have reported more coronavirus deaths and infections as they struggle with a new wave of the virus largely driven by the Delta variant. Thailand has recorded a new daily record of 75 deaths as well as 7,000 more cases. The figures push the country’s overall death toll to more than 2,400 and the caseload to over 300,000. South Korea logged its highest ever one-day rise of nearly 1,300, infections. Officials consider imposing a semi-lockdown in the capital Seoul, which is the epicenter of the new wave. India also reported nearly 46,000 new infections, pushing the tally to 30.71 million. India's death toll stands at over 405.000. Meanwhile, Australia’s already locked-down state of New South Wales reported 38 cases on Thursday, its biggest daily rise in 2021. The state’s total infections are now nearing 400.

Tokyo state of Covid-19 emergency 

Japan’s Olympics minister has announced that the upcoming games in Tokyo will be organized without spectators due to a coronavirus state of emergency there. The announcement followed talks between government officials, organizers and members of the Olympic committee. The organizers said that allowing spectators at venues outside the capital will be decided based on the local situation. The move is seen a sharp U-turn from a statement just weeks ago, when organizers said they intended to hold Olympic Games with limited audience. Earlier today, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga officially declared a state of coronavirus emergency in Tokyo, just a fortnight before the city is going to kick-start the summer Olympics. 

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