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World / Asia-Pacific

Abe, Putin eye Japan summit by year-end: gov't spokesperson

(Xinhua) Updated: 2015-09-29 22:12

TOKYO - Government officials in Japan said on Tuesday that talks between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York had been fruitful with a number of agreements being made, as both sides eye an official summit between the two leaders in Japan later this year.

Japan's top government spokesperson Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press briefing in Tokyo that discussions on Monday between the two leaders in New York were"meaningful," adding that the Japanese government would continue to"explore the best time"for an official summit between Prime Minister Abe and President Putin later this year.

Talks between Abe and Putin came at a time when diplomatic tensions between Japan and Russia had started to become frosty again as while animosity towards Japan for slapping sanctions on Russia over its intervention in Ukraine has largely subsided, Japan voicing its disappointment at numerous visits to disputed islands north of Hokkaido claimed by both countries, but administered by Russia, by Russian Cabinet members, has caused an additional strain to ties of late.

On Aug. 22, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visited Etorofu Island and visits by other Russian Cabinet members to both Etorofu and Kunashiri islands have irked Japan.

But, according to government officials here, agreements made between the leaders bode well for Putin's potential visit here later in the year and could bring both countries closer to solving the territorial spat over the four islands at the heart of a dispute that has prevented both sides from signing a peace treaty after the end of WWII.

In their first meeting since last November, Abe was quoted by public broadcaster NHK here as saying that he would like Putin to visit Japan at the best time and, in the meantime, both countries would work towards peace treaty negotiations and discussions towards further economic agreements would continue.

To this end, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, also recently agreed to restart ministerial level talks on the peace treaty concerning the dispute over the four islands, which are believed by Japan to be a part of the Nemuro Sub-prefecture of Hokkaido and are referred to by Japan as the Northern Territories, but are called the Southern Kurils in Russia who also claims and administers the islands.

And along with both countries' foreign ministers, Japan's National Security Secretariat, Shotaro Yachi, and Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev have also agreed that both countries need to resume dialogue at both ministerial and other levels.

Abe has also made it abundantly clear that he is keen to resolve the territorial rift between the two countries and remarked in his meeting with Putin that his recent reelection as Liberal Democratic Party president will allow him to better focus his attention on the ongoing peace treaty talks with Russia, local media reported Tuesday, while Suga himself strongly intimated in Tuesday's press briefing that Tokyo was keen for Putin's visit to happen before the end of this year.

Along with steps towards resolving the territorial rift, Abe and Putin also discussed a number of joint economic projects, issues pertaining to the ceasefire agreement in Ukraine, as well as both sides exchanging views on the Syrian civil war and refugee crisis and the need to eradicate terrorism, government officials here said.

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