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International relations

Abe and Putin to meet in Moscow on Jan. 21

Foreign ministers to discuss peace treaty and territory ahead of the summit

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, meeting Dec. 1 at the Group of 20 summit in Argentina, named their foreign ministers as top negotiators toward reaching a peace treaty.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin plan to meet on Jan. 21 in Moscow in hopes of advancing peace treaty talks over a 1956 pact promising the return of two disputed islands to Japan. 

Tokyo and Moscow are currently negotiating the final details. The plan is for Abe to visit the Russian capital on his way to the World Economic Forum in Switzerland that starts Jan. 22.

The aim is to advance talks based on the 1956 declaration that states Russia will return two of the four southern Kuril Islands -- Habomai and Shikotan -- to Japan after Moscow and Tokyo sign a peace treaty. Abe and Putin agreed to this approach when they met in Singapore in November. 

The dispute over the southern Kurils, which are administered by Russia and claimed by Japan as the Northern Territories, has prevented the two countries from signing a post-World War II peace treaty.

Prior to this, Foreign Minister Taro Kono and Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov will meet Jan. 14 in Moscow to lay the groundwork for talks between the two leaders.

The Jan. 14 meeting will be the first since Abe and Putin designated their foreign ministers as top negotiators on the matter Dec. 1. Japan sought a mid-December meeting for Kono and Lavrov but was unable to arrange it with Russia.

Takeo Mori, Japan's senior deputy minister for foreign affairs, and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov have been named as special working-level negotiators.

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