Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is en route to Moscow for summit talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, is leaning toward accepting a postwar peace treaty with Russia if Moscow hands over two of the four islands contested by the two countries, Japanese government sources said Sunday.

Abe, who is hoping to reach a broad agreement on the peace treaty issue later this year, said he wanted to take as much as time as possible to hold "candid" talks with Putin, as he left for Moscow on Monday afternoon.

The new approach now under consideration to settle the territorial dispute marks a departure from Tokyo's long-held position of aiming for the return of all of the islands off Hokkaido, which the Soviet Union seized after Japan's surrender in World War II in 1945.