National / Politics

Japan, Russia foreign ministers plan talks on sidelines of Bonn G-20 meeting

Kyodo

The Japanese and Russian foreign ministers are making final arrangements to hold talks around Friday on the fringes of the Group of 20 foreign ministers’ meeting in Bonn, a Japanese government source said Monday.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, would meet for the first time since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed at their summit in Japan in December to start talks on joint economic activities on a group of Russian-held islands claimed by Tokyo.

The ministers are expected to agree to accelerate talks on how to start the joint economic activities on the disputed islands off Hokkaido, the source said.

Abe and Putin have said that the joint activities would be an “important step” toward signing a post-World War II peace treaty, prevented by the existence of the territorial row.

In moving the discussions forward, the two countries need to define how the proposed joint activities, which include operating fisheries, tourism and health care, will progress without affecting their respective legal stances on sovereignty.

Japan and Russia are set to hold their first official talks on the activities on March 14, bringing together officials from relevant ministries. They hope to reach agreements on concrete projects ahead of Abe’s planned visit to Russia in April, the source said.

Kishida and Lavrov are also expected to discuss U.S. foreign policy under President Donald Trump, the source said.

So far, Trump has appeared to take a softer stance toward Russia in contrast with predecessor Barack Obama, whose ties with Putin soured over Ukraine and Syrian issues.

On the sidelines of the two-day ministerial meeting of the world’s top 20 economies from Thursday, Kishida also envisions holding talks with his German and Italian counterparts, Sigmar Gabriel and Angelino Alfano, the source said.

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