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International relations

Japan and Russia to push peace talks with island return in sight

Handing over two of four northern islands to be starting point of negotiations

Under the Japanese-Soviet Joint Declaration of 1956, the USSR agreed to hand over Shikotan Island and the Habomai group of islets. (Photo by Keiichiro Asahara)   © Habomai islet group (bottom)

SINGAPORE -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on Wednesday to accelerate talks toward concluding a peace treaty based on a 1956 declaration, which stipulates the return of two of four northern islands to Japan.

While the Japanese side has not abandoned its stance of ultimately retrieving all four islands, Abe's acceptance of the 1956 declaration as the foundation of peace treaty talks signals a new flexibility on a long-standing territorial issue.

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