Russian FM slams Japan over disputed islands

Updated: 2011-02-11 19:07
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MOSCOW - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov Friday told his Japanese counterpart that Japan's recent actions over the disputed Southern Kuril islands, which are also claimed by Japan, were "unacceptable."

During their over two-hour meeting, Lavrov described Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara's current visit to Moscow as "timely," but also said he had hoped the visit could take place in a more favorable political environment.

"Frankly speaking, I hoped that I would meet with you in a more favorable backdrop than the one emerged in recent days," Lavrov told Maehara.

"The recent backdrop was attributed to a number of (Japan's) unacceptable actions, including the so-called 'Northern Territories Day'," Lavrov added.

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For his part, Maehara thanked Lavrov for having the meeting with him, but stressed that the two countries should overcome territorial problems in accordance with the interests of both sides.

"There is a divergence in approaches toward this problem, but we must look for a mutually acceptable solution on the basis of legitimacy and fairness," Maehara said.

"We must hold this discussions in a quiet atmosphere," he added, stressing the two countries' positions "remain parallel."

"The Northern Territories are Japan's historic territories. I describe them both from the point of history and international perspective," he said.

Russia and Japan have long been at odds over the sovereignty of the four Pacific islands, which are called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia.

With regards to the bilateral ties, Lavrov said the two countries are keen to build a partnership.

"This is fully in line with the interests of both countries' people of Russia and Japan, and the agreements reached by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan last year," Lavrov said.

Lavrov told a press conference after the talks that Maehara echoed him and promised to boost the cooperation between the two countries.

"Mr Maehara said that the ratification of the agreement on cooperation on the use of nuclear power for peaceful purposes will be completed by the Japanese parliament in the nearest future," Lavrov said.

Russian President Medvedev visited Kunashiri Island in November, becoming the first Russian leader to travel to any of the disputed islands. Japan temporarily recalled its ambassador from Moscow to protest Medvedev's visit.