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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Sunday he was eager to resolve Japan’s long-standing isle dispute with Russia so that a peace treaty can finally be signed to put an end to World War II.

“By signing a peace treaty, we would be able to unlock the untapped potential of the Japan-Russia relationship. We would like to accelerate talks to get the Northern Territories back and sign a peace treaty,” he said on an NHK program, referring to four Russian-held islands off Hokkaido.

Concerning his plan to visit Russia on Feb. 7 to attend the opening ceremony for the Sochi Winter Olympics, Abe said he hopes to “increase the opportunity to have as many summit talks as possible” with Russian President Vladimir Putin this year “and settle problems in a relationship of trust with him.”

Abe met with Putin four times last year.

The four islands off Hokkaido — Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and the Habomai islet group — were seized by the Soviet Union in the closing days of World War II after Japan surrendered on Aug. 15, 1945. The ownership spat over the islands has prevented the two countries from signing a peace treaty, meaning they are still technically at war.

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