MOSCOW – The deputy foreign ministers of Japan and Russia met Monday in Moscow, effectively resuming negotiations aimed at resolving a long-standing territorial dispute that has prevented the two countries from signing a post-World War II peace treaty.
The two agreed that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold talks on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, next month, a Japanese government source said.
The bilateral summit is being arranged for Sept. 5, the first day of the two-day G-20 summit of major economies, the source added.
In Monday’s meeting, Deputy Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama and his Russian counterpart, Igor Morgulov, discussed how to proceed with the negotiations and the issues to be covered in future sessions.
They also confirmed plans to proceed with high-level political dialogue in a timely fashion, while preparing for a planned visit to Japan in the fall by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, according to the source.
“I’m hoping to make progress in joint work over a wide range of areas,” Morgulov said at the beginning of the meeting, while Sugiyama said he would do his utmost at consulting “with a greater sense of speed than ever.”
The meeting followed an April agreement between Abe and Putin in Moscow to restart the stalled talks over Russian-held islands off Hokkaido, in a bid to find a solution acceptable to both sides.
Monday’s meeting lasted several hours, but the Japanese and Russian officials spent less than half of the time discussing the territorial dispute, according to the source.
One solution considered in the past would involve Russia ceding control of the two smallest islands, Shikotan and the Habomai islets, and keeping the much larger Kunishiri and Etorofu.
But analysts believe such a compromise may be a tough sell to some nationalists in Tokyo and even in Russia, which under Putin’s rule has sought to project itself as a great world power.