MOSCOW – Former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed Wednesday that the two countries should launch substantial discussions aimed at resolving a territorial dispute over a group of Russian-held islands off Hokkaido.
Putin voiced determination to resolve bilateral problems, adding that it is important to remove all obstacles hindering the further development of bilateral ties.
He was apparently referring to the territorial dispute, which has stood in the way of a peace treaty between the two countries.
Mori was in Moscow attending the first meeting of a bilateral eminent persons’ group.
He told Putin that it was time for the two countries to try to resolve the dispute at both the diplomatic and expert levels.
Putin basically agreed, though he reiterated that the resolution should be sought in a way that is acceptable for both Japan and Russia.
Japan has long called for the return of the islands of Etorofu, Kunashiri and Shikotan and the Habomai group of islets, which were seized by Soviet troops at the end of World War II.
Mori invited Putin, who was re-elected last month, to visit Japan. Putin said he would consider doing so.
The Russian leader meanwhile described the Japanese hostage crisis in Iraq as “inhuman,” telling Mori that Russia will share any information it obtains in an effort to forge an early resolution of the matter.
Earlier in the day, Japan and Russia held a meeting of the bilateral eminent persons’ group to discuss the outlook for the advancement of ties.