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In an interview with Japanese broadcaster NHK recorded on Friday, Abe said that both parties had agreed to start consultations on joint economic activities on the islands following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s latest visit to Japan in December.
The 71-year territorial dispute stemming from the final days of World War II had figured prominently between Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during their previous meetings, but the Kremlin has warned that the issue “cannot be resolved in one go”.
A peace treaty has eluded both countries ever since Russian troops seized four Japanese islands – known as Kuril (or Kurilskiye Ostrova in Russian) – in the summer of 1945.
The four disputed islands – Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and Habomai – were occupied by Soviet forces at the end of the war and are today home to thousands of Russian civilians.
There have been stumbling blocks which hindered resolution of the dispute in the past. Russia says it wants to sign a peace treaty before resolving the Kuril Islands dispute.
Japan, on the other hand, wants the islands issue resolved before agreeing to sign a peace treaty.
Russia says there need to be extensive and complex negotiations before the issue is resolved.
Abe suggested that economic cooperation initiatives will allow the Japanese and Russian people “to conduct economic activities, to live together, to understand each other” and pave the way for a resolution of the dispute.
“We need to face the reality. If we don’t, then the progress will be same as during the past 70 years,” Abe said.
The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies