• Kyodo

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Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Tuesday he hopes to visit Russia at the earliest opportunity to get stalled peace-treaty negotiations with Moscow moving again.

Koizumi outlined this and other foreign policy initiatives during a meeting with reporters while en route to Canada for this week’s summit of leaders of the Group of Eight industrialized countries.

The prime minister arrived here at noon Tuesday and then took a helicopter to the mountain retreat of Kananaskis, the venue of the two-day G8 summit.

There, he had meetings with U.S. President George W. Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien.

Koizumi, who has organized a bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday, said he hopes to turn the talks with Putin into a trust-building session.

Negotiations between Tokyo and Moscow for a peace treaty have stalled over a long-standing territorial dispute concerning a string of Russian-held islands off Hokkaido.

“The conclusion of a peace treaty would enable Japan and Russia to cooperate in various fields and make big advances in overall ties,” Koizumi said.

Koizumi and Putin are expected to confirm a basic policy for future bilateral ties, reaffirm an accord reached by their foreign ministers earlier this month on activating political dialogue, and promote cultural cooperation, Japanese officials said.

Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov confirmed in Whistler, British Columbia, earlier this month that the two countries will move forward peace treaty talks and promote cooperation in the economic and international arenas.

The G8 summit, which opens Wednesday, is expected to address issues of poverty and economic development in Africa, as well as the global economy and the fight against international terrorism.

Regarding Africa, Koizumi said he plans to discuss Japan’s role in helping the continent to develop. Japan revealed last week an aid package to Africa, including a pledge of at least 250 billion yen to promote education.

“It is very important that we convey a message that there is an important bond (between developed and developing countries),” Koizumi told reporters.

On the economic front, Koizumi said he realizes G8 leaders are concerned about the stagnant Japanese economy and that he plans to brief them on Japan’s efforts to revitalize its economy through reforms.

On the global antiterrorism campaign, he said it is important for the world to maintain a sense of awareness that antiterrorism is a long-term commitment.

Koizumi expressed support for the Middle East policy announced by Bush on Monday and said he believes the region will be a major issue at the G8 summit.

“Japan is also very much interested in the question of (Middle East) peace, and we are ready to help. This is the message I want to convey,” he said.

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