Russia Proposes Kuril Islands Talks ‘Without Preconditions’

Russia invites Japan to discuss the disputed Kuril Islands without preconditions, Russian Ambassador to Japan Yevgeny Afanasiev said at a news conference on Wednesday.

“We are ready to talk on the basis of bilateral agreements, one of which is the Joint Declaration between the USSR and Japan signed in 1956 and on the principles of legitimacy and justice,” Afanasiev said.

“Despite the different approaches (of our countries), movement forward is possible. But there is one condition: a rejection of unilateral preconditions and historical associations. I would like to emphasize that this is a two-way process,” Afanasiev said.

“Our goal is to find mutually acceptable solutions,” the ambassador said, adding that he saw “a positive agenda” in relations between Russia and Japan.

The Kuril Islands dispute has clouded relations between Moscow and Tokyo for decades. Japan claims the four islands Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and Habomai, based on the 1855 Treaty of Shimoda, the first Russo-Japanese agreement addressing the status of Sakhalin Island and the Kurils.

The return of the islands is one of Tokyo’s conditions for finally signing a peace treaty with Russia to end World War II.

Moscow argues that the islands became part of the Soviet Union following the war and there can be no question about Russian sovereignty over them.

A 1956 Joint Declaration signed by the Soviet Union and Japan that ended the state of war between the two countries raised the possibility of the Soviet Union returning the two southernmost Kurils, Shikotan and Habomai, to Japan once a peace treaty was signed. But 56 years later, no peace treaty has been signed.

Afanasiev was recently appointed ambassador to Japan. He presented his credentials to Emperor Akihito on April 26.


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