Hailing a potential breakthrough in a decade-long territorial dispute with Russia, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed optimism after talks with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin on May 6.
“The prime minister said that today … he could make a breakthrough in the currently stagnated negotiation”, Japan’s Foreign Ministry Press Secretary Yasuhisa Kawamura said.
The relations between Japan and Russia have been impacted due to a row dating back to the end of World War II when Soviet troops seized the four southernmost islands in the Pacific Kuril chain, known as the northern territories in Japan. Tensions between the two countries have prevented them from ever signing a peace treaty to formally end World War II hostilities, hindering trade and investment ties.
In what was a rare visit by a G7 leader to Russia, Mr Abe met Mr Putin for talks at his holiday residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. The talks focused on the dispute. “The prime minister said that Mr Putin also shared … the same feeling” and the leaders “agreed today that they themselves directly get involved in the negotiation”, Mr Kawamura said.
The two leaders agreed to “promote negotiations by employing a new approach without being bothered by the old previous thinking. This is literally a new element”, he said, without giving out more details. “We have certain questions that demand special attention, maybe for this reason we must devote special attention to building relationships”, added Mr Putin.
Focusing on a breakthrough, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that after the talks on May 6, the sides “discussed the problem of the peace treaty”. He announced another round of foreign ministry consultations that would be held in June.
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