• Kyodo

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed Thursday to continue negotiations to resolve a long-standing territorial dispute, eventually leading to the conclusion of a peace treaty, a Japanese official said.

Meeting on the sidelines of the Group of Eight summit in Heiligendamm, Germany, Putin welcomed as “appealing and constructive” an initiative submitted by Japan on cooperation in eight fields in the Russian Far East and Eastern Siberia.

“Without delaying and shelving the territorial issue, which must eventually be resolved, let’s push forward with the negotiations,” Abe was quoted as saying to Putin in reference to the sovereignty dispute over a set of Russian-held islands off Hokkaido.

The Russian president responded by saying, “I would like to remove all obstacles in the bilateral relationship.”

On Sunday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov angered the Japanese government by visiting some of the disputed isles, becoming the first Russian foreign minister to do so. The two leaders, however, made no reference to the visit during their talks.

Abe also took up other pressing issues between the two nations, including requesting an explanation for Russia’s decision in late May to ban exports of live crab caught in Russian waters. Japan imports about 75,000 tons of Russian crab every year.

The prime minister also voiced concern over Putin’s earlier remarks that Russia may stop issuing fishing quotas to foreign companies. Abe pointed out that Japanese companies should be treated in line with an existing bilateral government-level agreement between Tokyo and Moscow, the official said.

Sidestepping a direct response, Putin only asked that Japan continue to cooperate on measures against smuggling and poaching.

Abe also called on Russia to release a captured Japanese fishing boat and its crew as soon as possible. The boat was seized June 1 by the Russian border guard off the Kamchatka Peninsula on suspicion of poaching.

The initiative Japan submitted at Thursday’s talks proposes cooperation in the fields of energy, transportation, data transmission, environmental protection, security, medical care, investment promotion and grassroots exchanges in the Russian Far East and Eastern Siberia.

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