MOSCOW (Kyodo) Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara said Saturday he agreed with Sergei Naryshkin, chief of staff of the Russian Presidential Executive Office, that Tokyo and Moscow need to boost mutual confidence and bolster bilateral ties to resolve a row over Russian-held islands off Hokkaido that Japan wants returned.

“From a broad point of view, relations between the two countries are extremely important and we need to develop them. We will try to maintain trust between leaders, foreign ministers and high-ranking officials of the two countries,” Maehara said.

Naryshkin said Russia is ready to discuss the territorial issue “without preconditions,” according to Maehara.

The foreign minister said he agreed with Naryshkin that they will “not trade barbs from remote positions and sow distrust, but directly meet or hold teleconferences to discuss” the sovereignty issue.

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