OSAKA -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on Saturday to speed up negotiations for a peace treaty based on the Soviet-Japanese declaration of 1956.
"It is becoming clearer what issues need to be overcome," Abe said after the two met face to face in Osaka on the sidelines of the G-20 summit, the 26th time the two leaders had spoken since the Japanese leader visited Moscow in January.
Putin noted that they were searching for a solution that the people of the two nations could accept.
The leaders had agreed to accelerate discussions based on the 1956 declaration at a meeting in October last year. The country's top diplomats have met four times since then, but have been unable to bridge the gap over the sovereignty of the Northern Territories -- four islands north of Hokkaido that were occupied by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II.
Abe had said on a radio program that he wanted to advance as much as possible toward a peace treaty.
In a bid to keep the momentum of negotiations, the two sides agreed on a set of initiatives including expanding cooperation in the energy and medical sectors, and engaging in joint activities in the Northern Territories, such as tourism, waste disposal and vegetable farming.
After the meeting, Japanese major trading house Mitsui & Co and Russia's top independent gas producer, Novatek, signed an agreement on liquefied natural gas production in the arctic. The deal is one of eight cooperation packages that Abe had proposed to Russia at a meeting in May 2016.