Russia rejects Japan’s Kuril claims but ready to discuss peace treaty

Russia is ready to discuss a peace treaty with Japan but rules out any claims to the southern Kuril Islands, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told his Japanese counterpart Koichiro Gemba by phone on Friday.

The row over the islands, which are known as the Northern Territories in Japan, has prevented the two countries from signing a formal peace treaty since the end of World War II.

The Russian Foreign Ministry quoted Lavrov as telling Gemba that bilateral talks on the issue should be held “in a quiet atmosphere, without preliminary conditions and one-sided historical links.”

Last year, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sparked a diplomatic row with Tokyo by making the first ever visit by a Russian leader to the islands. He later said Russia would increase its military presence there. Japan’s then prime minister Naoto Kan called Medvedev’s visit an “inexcusable rudeness.”

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