Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks during a news conference following a meeting with his Japanese counterpart Taro Kono in Moscow, Russia January 14, 2019. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia told Japan on Monday that Moscow’s sovereignty over several disputed islands was not up for discussion and that disagreements between the countries still obstruct the path to a peace deal.
Russia and Japan have been in dispute since World War Two over islands captured by Soviet troops in the last days of the war. The islands are known as the Southern Kuriles to Russia and the Northern Territories to Japan.
“We’ve brought the attention of our friends from Japan to the fact that the questions of sovereignty over the islands are not being discussed. It is the Russian Federation’s territory,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters in Moscow.
Lavrov was speaking to reporters following talks with Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono.
“I won’t hide that we still have significant divergences. To start with the positions were diametrically opposed and we have said this more than once,” Lavrov said.
“But the political will of our leaders to fully normalize between Russia and Japan prompts us to activate this dialogue,” he said.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is making a push for a treaty with Russia over the islands.
He is due to hold peace talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Jan. 22, but Moscow has shown no willingness to cede control over the islands.
Reporting by Tom Balmforth; additional reporting by Polina Devitt; Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Alison Williams and Peter Graff