Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday said there were still significant points of disagreement with Japan standing in the way of a push to sign a peace deal to end a decades-old territorial dispute.
Lavrov, speaking to newsmen in Moscow after talks with Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono, said it was hard to expect progress in peace talks without Japan first recognising Moscow’s sovereignty over disputed island territories.
Russia and Japan have been in dispute for seven decades over islands known in Russia as the Southern Kuriles and in Japan as the Northern Territories.
Russia has rejected Japan’s assertion that it was ready to loosen its grip on the Kuril Islands, dashing hopes that the two countries might be close to resolving a decades-long territorial dispute over the Pacific archipelago.
Russia and Japan have a shared interest in resolving the Kurils problem, which prevents conclusion of a peace treaty formally ending the second World War and has acted as a brake on bilateral economic and political co-operation.
Russia wants to tap Japanese investment in energy and technology, and Japan hankers after greater access to Siberian oil and gas resources.
Putin has called for an amicable settlement that would see Russia sign a peace treaty with Japan, and then talk about the possible return of two of the four disputed islands, including Shikotan and Habomai.
Terms for such an accord were set out in a Soviet-Japanese declaration in 1956 that fell apart after the U.S. stationed troops in Japan the following decade.
Abe has invested a large amount of political capital in ending what Japan sees as a Russian occupation of the Kurils, and has been talking up the prospects for his forthcoming meeting with Putin.
In televised remarks over the New Year holidays the Japanese leader asserted that 2019 would see a breakthrough in negotiations and that residents of the disputed islands should prepare for a change of ownership. (Reuters/NAN)