• Kyodo

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Former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori held talks Wednesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin and handed him a letter from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

In Putin’s first meeting with a prominent figure from Japan since the Ukraine crisis heated up, Mori said he indicated Tokyo’s willingness to continue dialogue with the aim of holding a summit this fall.

Mori told reporters after the meeting that Putin told him that dialogue with Japan “will continue and must continue,” expressing strong enthusiasm for ongoing talks.

The agreement keeps alive the possibility of Putin visiting Tokyo despite the strain in relations over Japan’s sanctions in response to the Ukraine crisis.

Mori said Putin read Abe’s letter on the spot and told Mori to give Abe his regards.

Regarding the contents of the letter, Mori commented, “I have a feeling it said we should continue talking.”

Mori said the meeting did not cover the timing of a Putin visit or the long-standing dispute over Russian-held islands off northeast Hokkaido.

Japan calls the four islands the Northern Territories while Russia calls them the Southern Kurils.

Mori said he told Putin of the need for a peaceful conclusion to the Ukraine crisis, and that the Russian leader assured him he would strive for this.

Mori, who heads Japan’s organizing committee for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, added that he invited Putin to the games and that he replied he would like to attend if possible.

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