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Russia Summons Japan’s Envoy for Comments on Disputed Islands

TOKYO – Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono’s visit to Russia for talks on a long-running territorial dispute look set to be overshadowed by anger over official comments about the negotiations, Bloomberg said Friday.
The Russian Foreign Ministry summoned the Japanese ambassador to protest his government’s recent statements before Kono’s arrival on Saturday.
The dispute between the islands has prevented the two countries from sealing a peace treaty since the Second World War.
Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov told Toyohisa Kozuki on Wednesday that recent comments by Japanese officials distorted a 1956 deal and created tensions around the problem, according to a statement posted on the ministry’s website.
The Japanese Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that Kozuki had been summoned and explained Japan’s position. He did not provide more details, citing the need for a calm environment for negotiations.
Without specifying who made these comments, the Russian Foreign Ministry criticized the description of 2019 as “a turning point” in the talks and the need to obtain the agreement of the Russian residents of the islands for a transfer to Japan.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made comments along these lines on January 1st and 4th in a statement and press conference.
Abe has devoted political means to resolve the island dispute that had prevailed since the then Soviet Union seized what Russia calls the South Kuriles at the end of the Second World War, expelling thousands of Japanese residents.
Japan calls the four islands as the Northern Territories.
Abe, whose father also fought for a resolution of the conflict, renewed his commitment to do everything in his power to resolve the issue during a visit to his family’s grave in the south-west, Japan.
He has met with President Vladimir Putin 24 times since 2012, with another meeting scheduled for January.
The two leaders alluded to a compromise last year by agreeing to speed up negotiations based on a 1956 declaration referring to the transfer of only two of the islands, instead of the four officially claimed by Japan.
Foreign Minister Kono is scheduled to meet his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on January 14th.
(Sahar News Monitoring Desk)

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