TOKYO, January 16th. / TASS /. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called the talks between the foreign ministers of Japan and Russia, held on January 14 in Moscow, a "good start". This is according to a report by the Kyodo news agency on Wednesday that cited Muneo Suzuki, a well-known Japanese politician. The media outlet reported that Abe had provided this assessment during his meeting with Suzuki, who is actively engaged in matters on the dialogue between Moscow and Tokyo and regularly holds meetings with Japan’s premier on the issue.
According to Suzuki, the head of the Japanese government stressed that this year was "very important" and highlighted "the need to act quickly". "I will take action and not for even a second will I neglect the hopes and aspirations of the former [Japanese] inhabitants of the Kuril islands," Suzuki quoted the prime minister as saying. Abe’s visit along with a fresh bilateral summit between Moscow and Tokyo is expected to take place next week.
On January 14, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Japanese counterpart Taro Kono, held talks in Moscow within the framework of the first round of the peace treaty negotiations. As the Russian top diplomat noted, Moscow will not discuss its sovereignty over the southern part of the Kurils. In turn, the Japanese envoys confined themselves to statements that work on concluding a bilateral peace treaty is in progress.
Putin and Abe agreed to activate peace talks during a meeting in Singapore last November. Later in December, on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, the leaders announced the establishment of a new peace treaty negotiations format. Both top diplomats were put in charge of overseeing its work. The meeting between the Russian and Japanese foreign ministers, which was held on Monday, became the first within the framework of these new agreement.
For decades, Moscow and Tokyo have been negotiating a peace treaty after World War II. The main stumbling block is the status of the Southern part of the Kuril islands. After World War II, the whole archipelago became part of the Soviet Union. However, Tokyo disputes Russian claims over Iturup, Kunashir and Shikotan islands as well as a number of smaller uninhabited islands called the Habomai Islands in Japan. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has repeatedly stated that the Russian sovereignty over those islands is fixed in international legal documents and cannot be questioned.