Saturday, February 12, 2011

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has described talks with Japan over the disputed Kuril Islands as pointless as long as Tokyo adopts a radical position.

Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara (R) leaves after a press conference with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov after a meeting in Moscow on February 11, 2011.
"When radical approaches to signing a peace treaty take over in Japan...then talks have no prospects," state-run RIA Novosti quoted Lavrov as saying during a joint press conference with his Japanese counterpart Seiji Maehara on Friday. 

The senior Russian official also proposed the establishment of a commission of Russian and Japanese historians to resolve the long-standing dispute. 

Maehara, for his part, repeated Tokyo's claim to the four Russian-held islands -- known as the Kuril Islands in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan, saying they are an integral part of Japan “in terms of history and international law.” 

He noted that Japan and Russia will set up a high-level task force to study the feasibility of Tokyo participation in joint economic projects on the disputed islands. 

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited the island of Kunashir, one of the four disputed islands, on November 1, 2010. The visit was the first of its kind by a Russian official. 

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan quickly expressed regret over the controversial visit to the remote Pacific islands. 

“Japan's stance is that those four northern islands are part of our country's territory, so the president's visit is very regrettable,” Kan said. 

The Japanese foreign minister also said any such visit would “hurt the feelings of the Japanese people.” 

Lavrov denied that Medvedev's trip to the disputed islands was politically-motivated. 

"The Russian president does not take advice from anyone on which region of Russia he should visit,” Lavrov said. 

Japanese Ambassador to Moscow Masaharu Kono was temporarily recalled to Tokyo for consultations after Medvedev's visit to the Kunashir Island. He returned to Russia after a week. 

The Kurils Islands have rich fishing grounds, mineral deposits, as well as potential oil and gas reserves.

The archipelago of some 56 islands, which are home to about 19,000 people, has been controlled by Moscow since its seizure by Soviet troops in 1945. All of the islands are under Russian jurisdiction, but Japan claims that the four southernmost islands as part of its territory. 

Tension over the disputed Kuril Islands has snarled ties between Tokyo and Moscow, preventing the signing of a formal peace treaty to end WWII hostilities. source

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