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Russian, Japanese diplomats hold consultations in Tokyo

January 31, 2014, 7:54 UTC+3 TOKYO
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TOKYO, January 31, 6:03 /ITAR-TASS/. Japanese and Russian Deputy Foreign Ministers Shinsuke Sugiyama and Igor Morgulov are holding consultations in Tokyo on Friday, January 31.

Morgulov and Sugiyama will discuss a wide range of issues concerning relations between the two countries, including investments and energy. Japan hopes the consultations will help prepare its Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida’s visit to Russia scheduled for April.

“During the consultations, we are prepared to exchange views on the most important issues,” Morgulov said before the meeting.

Russia and Japan have stepped up their political dialogue and economic relations. In 2011, trade turnover between the two countries was 30 billion U.S. dollars. Last year, it reached a record level of 35 billion U.S. dollars, with Russian export exceeding import from Japan by about 12.7 billion U.S. dollars.

Ownership of the disputed Kurile Islands and a peace treaty the two countries never signed after the end of World War II will also be discussed. The two countries had agreed earlier that the talks on these issues would be conducted by deputy foreign ministers.

“As the leaders of our countries agreed, we will also hold the first official round of talks on a peace treaty, paying attention to its historical aspects,” Morgulov said.

Japanese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Kuni Sato said ahead of the consultations that Tokyo’s position on the territorial dispute had not changed and it would continue to insist on the return of the four disputed islands - Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan, and a string of small islands which Japan considers one island, for convenience’s sake, and calls Habomai.

At their meeting during the G20 summit in St. Petersburg in September 2013, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Abe agreed that the issue of peace treaty between their countries could be solved only on the basis of the “no winner, no loser” principle.

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

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

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

“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, the 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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