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MOSCOW — Japan and Russia on Friday announced a joint declaration setting 2000 as the target year for concluding a bilateral peace treaty that has been blocked by a decades-old territorial dispute.

It is the first time the two countries have agreed to state a date in an official bilateral document and also the first official written agreement since the two countries issued a joint declaration in Tokyo, in 1993.

Although there was no signing ceremony, Japanese government sources said the two heads of state, Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi and Russian President Boris Yeltsin, independently signed the document.

Then Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto and Yeltsin agreed in Russia last November to make utmost efforts to establish a peace treaty by 2000, based on the Tokyo Declaration. The two leaders reconfirmed their commitment to the agreement at another informal summit that was held Japan in April.

In the Moscow Declaration, Obuchi and Yeltsin reaffirmed again their resolution to strive for a peace treaty by the target date, ordering a panel be established for the purpose of working out a line to demarcate the two countries under the existing joint committee and treaties.

They also decided to set up another panel that would study joint economic activities on the Russian-held islands off Hokkaido that Japan claims are its own.

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