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Japan must recognise Kuril islands for peace deal: Lavrov

22 september 2015, 14:36
0
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) shakes hands with his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida. ©AFP
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) shakes hands with his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida. ©AFP

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov indicated Monday that there is no room for compromise with Japan over the disputed south Kuril islands, calling on Tokyo to "recognise" post-WWII "historic realities", AFP reports.

Lavrov met with Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida who is in Russia on a three-day visit to address the dispute over four islands Japan calls the Northern Territories seized by Soviet troops during World War II just after Japan surrendered.

The two countries have never officially struck a peace treaty and have had bitter disputes over the islands in the Kuril chain for decades, hampering trade ties.

Kishida indicated in his remarks, which were translated into Russian, that the two countries should "create a mutually acceptable solution to the territorial issue" of the islands Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and Habomai.

However Lavrov appeared to reject the Japanese term for the islands itself. "Neither the 'northern territories' of Japan nor the 'northern territories' of Russia are the subject of our dialogue."

"On our agenda is reaching the peace deal," he said. "Moving forward on this issue is possible only after we see clearly Japan's recognition of historic realities." 

"The work is difficult and the difference in positions is vast," Lavrov said of peace talks, which would nevertheless continue by deputy foreign ministers on October 8.

Previously Tokyo and Moscow discussed the issue in January 2014, but the process was put on ice after Moscow annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in March that year.

A visit last month by Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to one of the islands was met with strong protests by Tokyo, reportedly even throwing Kishida's visit into doubt.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Medvedev's landing on the island of Iturup "conflicts with Japan's position" and is "extremely regrettable."

This month Japan scrambled four jet fighters to intercept an aircraft, believed to be Russian, violating its airspace, also protesting this on official levels.

The two ministers on Monday also discussed the long-delayed visit by President Vladimir Putin to Japan, but Lavrov said that while the Kremlin has accepted the invitation, the specific date is up to Tokyo.

"It would be important to ensure that a new summit is filled with substance," Lavrov added. "To pose preconditions for high-level meetings is hardly productive."


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