Although Moscow pushes for permanent peace with Japan, Tokyo hinders all peace efforts

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MOSCOW, Russia – Signing a peace treaty, not “giving or receiving anything,” is the reason Russia continues its dialogue with Japan, the Kremlin said amid tough talks over the four Kuril Islands.

Our main goal is not to give or receive anything, but to sign a peace treaty [with Japan],” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Sunday. Today, Moscow and Tokyo are locked in uncomfortable conversations about the latent territorial dispute.

Japan, a close ally of the US, is sticking to sanctions imposed by Washington, which makes the dialogue even more challenging, Peskov said. “They support the sanctions regime and this is one of the problems and situations that prevent the signing of the peace treaty.”

Other obstacles include Japan’s attempts to involve its allies, the US, in the negotiations. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently called the idea “outrageous,” raising the issue with his Japanese counterpart, Taro Kono.

Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed that Moscow is eager to sign a peace treaty. Later this month he will hold a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to continue discussions on the proposed peace agreement.

Last year Putin proposed an agreement without preconditions, but Abe later called the idea “unacceptable.”

Moscow and Tokyo closed hostilities in World War II without a formal peace treaty. Known in Japan as Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and Habomai, the Okhotsk Sea Islands were delivered to the USSR under the Potsdam Declaration of 1945. Since then, Tokyo has attempted to claim the four Kuril Islands.

Japan has actively discussed the prospect of regaining sovereignty over the southernmost part of the archipelago, which includes the island of Shikotan and Habomai. In November last year, Putin and Abe said they would work on a peace agreement based on the 1956 declaration signed by Japan and the USSR.

The document provides prospects for a transfer of sovereignty, although the wording is vague. Still, the statement says that change would only be possible after the two sides signed a peace treaty. Tokyo, however, maintains that the territorial dispute must be resolved first.

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