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No sign of talks on island handover between Moscow, Tokyo — envoy

According to Sergei Ivanov, there is nothing good about the lack of a peace treaty between Russia and Japan, but "there is nothing terrible about it either"

KRABOZAVODSKOYE /Sakhalin Region/, February 26. /TASS/. Moscow is in talks with Japan on making a peace treaty but there have been no discussions of a handover of islands to Tokyo, Russian Presidential Envoy for Environmental Protection, Ecology and Transport Sergei Ivanov told reporters.

"We have been holding talks for 60 years and are ready to continue them. What are these talks about? About making a peace treaty," Ivanov said, adding that "it is Japan that has a territorial issue" but not Russia.

"There are certain speculations here because some media outlets are only happy to speculate on the matter in order to have something to talk about and fill their pages. But in fact, there is no reason for that," Ivanov noted. "In reality, there is no sign of talks about any [island] handover, rest assured of that," the presidential envoy emphasized.

According to Ivanov, there is nothing good about the lack of a peace treaty between Russia and Japan, but "there is nothing terrible about it either." He pointed out that the two countries had diplomatic relations, boosting trade, economic, investment, cultural, sporting and humanitarian ties. "The lack of a peace treaty is not a good thing but it is not fatal. We have been living without it for 70 years and we can go on without it," the Russian presidential envoy concluded.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said earlier in an interview with Vietnam’s national broadcaster Vietnam Television (VTV), China’s CCTV and Phoenix TV that conditions had not been created yet for making a peace treaty that would be acceptable for both Moscow and Tokyo. According to Lavrov, Russia is not negotiating a peace treaty on Japan’s terms and stands against determining artificial time frames.

Peace treaty issue

Since the mid-20th century, Russia and Japan have been holding consultations in order to clinch a peace treaty as a follow-up to World War II. The Kuril Islands issue remains the key sticking point since after WWII the islands were handed over to the Soviet Union while Japan laid claims to the four southern islands.

In November 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held a meeting on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in Singapore and agreed that the two countries would accelerate the pace of the peace negotiations based on the 1956 Joint Declaration. The document ended the state of war and said that the Soviet government was ready to hand Shikotan Island and a group of small islands called Habomai over to Japan on condition that Tokyo would take control of them once a peace treaty was signed.

However, after Japan and the United States had signed the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security in 1960, the Soviet Union withdrew its obligation to hand over the islands. A Soviet government’s memorandum dated January 27, 1960, said that those islands would only be handed over to Japan if all foreign troops were pulled out of the country.

Russia has pointed out on numerous occasions that the document does not set out handover conditions and thus requires further clarification.