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Russia, Japan discuss “modality” of peace treaty talks

August 19, 2013, 17:42 UTC+3

The country's Deputy Foreign Ministers discuss an array of issues, including schedule of bilateral political dialogue

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MOSCOW, August 19 (Itar-Tass) - Russian and Japanese diplomats discussed the “modality” of peace treaty talks between the two countries and agreed to coordinate the date of the next round of consultations via diplomatic channels.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov and his Japanese counterpart Shinsuke Sugiyama met in Moscow on Monday, August 19, to review a wide range of issues, including the schedule of bilateral political dialogue, and map out ways to intensify trade and economic cooperation, the foreign ministry said.

They reaffirmed “mutual commitment to coordinating efforts towards stronger security in the Asia Pacific Region” and paid “special attention to the situation on the Korean Peninsula.”

A peace treaty was discussed during Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s visit to Tokyo this past June and during Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s trip to Moscow in April of this year when he and Russian President Vladimir Putin instructed their foreign ministries to “step up work to come to a mutually acceptable solution” to the issue of peace treaty.

“The Japanese side showed a very constructive and benevolent attitude,” presidential aide Yuri Ushakov said back then, adding that “the Japanese side stated some [of the proposals regarding a peace treaty] at the talks in a narrow format.”

He believes that a peace treaty cannot be signed unless the territorial dispute is solved.

Ushakov reiterated Moscow’s position that the disputed islands cannot be handed over to Japan. However he believes that “the agreement to resume substantive contacts on a peace treaty is very important.”

The leaders of Russia and Japan agreed to instruct their foreign ministries to step up negotiations and find mutually acceptable solutions to the issue of peace treaty.

The proposed solutions will be presented to the leaders for a review, according to the joint statement adopted by Putin and Abe.

“The leaders of the two countries share the general understanding regarding the importance of conducting talks on a peace treaty in a friendly and constructive atmosphere while strengthening mutual trust, stepping up mutually advantageous cooperation in all areas and showing mutual respect for the feelings of the peoples,” the document said.

“Moscow has repeatedly stressed that a solution to the problem of peace treaty should be sought against the background of active development of relations between the two countries in all areas,” the Foreign Ministry said earlier.

Russia’s sovereignty over the Kurile Islands is unquestionable and based on the results of World War II, the ministry stressed.

“We would like to remind [Tokyo] again that Russia’s sovereignty over these territories is not to be questioned and is based on the results of the Second World War legally formalised in the Crimean agreement of the three great powers on the Far East of February 11, 1945, the Potsdam Declaration of July 26, 1945, and the San Francisco Peace Treaty of September 8, 1951, and legitimised by Article 107 of the U.N. Charter,” the ministry said.

The dispute over the Kuril Islands is a dispute between Russia and Japan over sovereignty over the southernmost Kuril Islands. The disputed islands, which were occupied by Soviet forces during the Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation at the end of World War II, are currently under Russian administration. However Japan has been disputing ownership of Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and Habomai islands for the past sixty years.

The positions of the two sides have not substantially changed since the 1956 Joint Declaration, and a permanent peace treaty between Japan and Russia still has not been concluded.

On July 7, 2005, the European Parliament issued an official statement recommending the return of the territories in dispute, which Russia immediately protested.

As late as 2006, Russia’s Vladimir Putin administration offered Japan the return of Shikotan and the Habomais (about 6 percent of the disputed area) if Japan would renounce its claims to the other two islands, referring to the Soviet-Japanese Joint Declaration of 1956 which promised Shikotan and the Habomais would be ceded to Japan once a peace treaty was signed.

The disputed Kuril Islands are the main obstacle to the settlement of Russian-Japanese relations and signing of a peace treaty.

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