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Japan hopes for progress in peace treaty talks with Russia, official says

Russian and Japanese foreign and defense ministers would hold talks in Moscow on July 31

MOSCOW, July 23. /TASS/. Tokyo hopes for progress in the peace treaty talks with Moscow, speaker of the Japanese parliament’s upper house Chuichi Date said on Monday at a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Valentina Matviyenko.

"An unsettled territorial problem has been in place between our countries for 70 years. A top-level contact is needed to resolve it," he said. "We hope for serious progress in talks on the basis of trust relations between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin."

Matviyenko, in turn, said she was confident that the visit by the Japanese delegation "will give a strong impetus to the development of the entire spectrum of Russian-Japanese relations in the light of agreements reached by our countries’ leaders and will give a fresh impetus to inter-parliamentary cooperation between Russia and Japan."

She hailed close contacts between the two nations’ foreign ministries. "Two ministerial meetings have already been held this year. We are glad that the 2+2 format, i.e. contacts between the foreign and defense ministers, has been revived and another such meeting will be organized soon," she noted.

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said earlier that Russian and Japanese foreign and defense ministers would hold talks in Moscow on July 31.

Since mid-20th century, Russia and Japan have been negotiating a peace treaty after World War II. The main stumbling block to this is the issue of the ownership of the southern Kuril Islands. After the end of World War II, all Kuril Islands were incorporated into the Soviet Union. However, Japan challenged the ownership of Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan islands and a number of uninhibited islands of the Lesser Kuril Ridge called the Habomai Islands in Japan.

In 1956, the Soviet Union and Japan signed a joint declaration on ceasing the state of war. The two countries resumed diplomatic and other relations, however no peace treaty has been signed until now. The Soviet Union committed to paper in the declaration its readiness to hand over Shikotan and Habomai to Japan as a gesture of good will after the peace treaty is ultimately signed.

The Russian foreign ministry has repeatedly said stressed that Russia’s ownership of these islands is fixed in international legal documents and cannot be doubted.