The leaders of Russia and Japan acknowledged Jan. 22 that settling a decadeslong territorial dispute poses a daunting challenge but vowed to continue negotiations.
The Soviet Union took the four islands during the final days of World War II. Japan asserts territorial rights to the islands, and the dispute has kept the countries from signing a peace treaty.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said after hosting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for several hours of talks in the Kremlin that they need to negotiate a solution to the dispute that would enjoy public support.
“Delicate work is needed to create conditions for reaching a mutually acceptable solution,” Putin said. “A settlement that negotiators would propose must be acceptable to the people of Russia and Japan and supported by the public.”
Abe said they instructed their foreign ministers to meet again on the sidelines of a security conference in Germany in February to continue negotiations on a possible deal.
“It’s not easy to solve a problem left unsolved for more than 70 years after the war ended, but we must do that,” Abe said.
Abe has held dozens of meetings with Putin in recent years in a bid to solve the dispute, and they agreed in November to accelerate negotiations based on a 1956 Soviet proposal to return two of the islands to Japan. (AP)