National / Politics

Russia's Sergey Lavrov asks why Japan PM Abe is confident of ending row over islands off Hokkaido

JIJI

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has questioned why Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is confident of resolving the long-standing territorial dispute between Japan and Russia over four Russian-held Pacific islands known as the Northern Territories.

Abe expressed his resolve to advance the post-World War II peace pact negotiations, which have long been stalled over the territorial dispute, saying, “It is not easy to settle an issue that has remained unsolved for more than 73 years after the end of the war. But we have to accomplish this.”

Lavrov said in an interview with Vietnamese and Chinese media that he does not know where Abe’s conviction comes from, according to an announcement Sunday by the Russian Foreign Ministry.

The ministry quoted Lavrov as saying that neither he nor Russian President Vladimir Putin has provided a basis for Abe’s remarks.

Russia has not set any deadline for bilateral talks on concluding a World War II peace treaty and there is no planned framework for an agreement, Lavrov said. He added that he does not understand what the Japanese side means to say by Abe’s remarks.

The territorial dispute over four Russian-held Pacific islands, which were seized from Japan by Soviet troops in the closing days of World War II, has prevented Japan and Russia from concluding a peace treaty to put a formal end to wartime hostilities.

Putin said in a speech Wednesday that Russia is ready to work with Japan to explore mutually acceptable conditions for concluding a peace treaty.

On the remarks, Lavrov said that although Russia is working carefully on the issue, such conditions are totally absent at present, according to the ministry.