Mori, Putin agree to hold meeting late this month

Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin agreed during a telephone conversation Monday that they will hold a top-level meeting in St. Petersburg during Mori’s visit to Russia from April 28 to April 30, a Foreign Ministry officials said.

Last week in Moscow, Putin had agreed with Japan’s government emissary, Muneo Suzuki, that the two countries’ leaders would meet sometime between April 28 and April 30 in Russia.

Although the exact timing of the Mori-Putin meeting has yet to be worked out, the bilateral summit is likely to take place on April 29, the official said.

During their 10-minute talk Monday evening, Mori conveyed to Putin his intention to follow former Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi’s foreign policy agenda, including the further enhancement of Japan-Russia ties, the official said.

Citing his meeting with Suzuki in Moscow, Putin said that he wanted to invite Mori to Russia between April 28 and April 30, and proposed that the location of the top-level meeting be St. Petersburg, the official said.

Accepting Putin’s offer, Mori replied that he wants to discuss with Putin Japan-Russia cooperation regarding July’s Group of Eight summit in Okinawa and also the two countries’ enhanced partnership in the 21st century, the official said.

Earlier, Mori had received a letter from Putin in which Putin praised recent advancements in Japan-Russian relations and expressed hope that constructive personal ties will be nurtured between he and Mori, according the Putin letter released Monday.

On the same day, Mori held telephone talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Italian Prime Minister Massimo D’Alema.

In his 15-minute talk with Blair, Mori asked for British cooperation in successfully conducting the upcoming Okinawa G8 summit, another ministry official said.

Mori was quoted as telling Blair that he will follow in the footsteps of Obuchi’s foreign policy agenda, conveying Japan’s intention to cooperate with Britain in tackling a variety of global challenges.

Expressing sorrow for Obuchi’s illness and congratulating Mori on his succession as prime minister, Blair said Britain is ready to fully support Japan as the host of the G8, the official said.

Mori and Blair reaffirmed to realize their meeting as early as possible, although they did not go into any specific timetable, the official said.

In his 10-minute telephone conversation with D’Alema, Mori underlined his intention to further enhance Japan’s relations with Italy, ministry officials said.

The two leaders reaffirmed their cooperation toward the Okinawa summit, they said.