ST. PETERSBURG – In the quest to address a a decades-old territorial dispute, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Saturday that it is necessary to hold a meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The Russian leader said in a meeting with reporters in St. Petersburg that he believes it is possible to resolve the issue, though he did not elaborate.
It was Putin’s first comment on the territorial row since Abe vowed earlier this week to take the reins in addressing the dispute “as soon as possible.”
Abe also said he would work to move the issue forward during an envisaged visit to Japan by Putin this year, which the two leaders have already agreed on.
The disputed islands — Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and the Habomai islet group — were seized by the Soviet Union following Japan’s surrender in World War II on Aug. 15, 1945. The territorial row remains a serious issue that has prevented the two countries from signing a peace treaty.
Putin also said Japan bears responsibility for the two nations’ chilly ties, alleging that Tokyo’s sanctions on Moscow over its actions in Ukraine have kept the two countries from promoting bilateral relations and signing a peace treaty.
The president suggested a new proposal is needed from Japan, saying Russia can do little to improve strained relations on its own.
Japan and other Group of Seven countries agreed at a summit this month that the duration of sanctions should be clearly linked to Russia’s complete implementation of a cease-fire agreement in February. There has been a recent upsurge in violence between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian government forces in eastern Ukraine.
Economic ties with Japan will play a large part in promoting the development of natural resources, Putin said, with the Russian government backing an expansion of liquefied natural gas projects in waters off the island of Sakhalin that major Japanese companies are involved in, he added.