Russia, Japan to reopen talks on islands dispute

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday pledged to renew talks on solving a territorial dispute over Pacific islands that has prevented the two countries from signing a World War II peace treaty.

The two leaders agreed it was "abnormal" their countries had not signed a peace treaty 67 years after the end of World War II and expressed determination to overcome "the existing differences" on the islands dispute through talks, according to a joint declaration adopted in the Kremlin.

The declaration said Abe and Putin agreed to order their foreign ministers to speed up talks on "developing mutually acceptable options" for a solution, without detailing what this solution might involve.

It said that the foreign ministers should then present their proposals to the leaders.

Abe told reporters in the Kremlin at a news conference alongside Putin that the agreement to accelerate the search for an acceptable solution for signing a peace treaty was a "great result".

"The talks on a peace treaty agreement in the last few years have been in a state of stagnation," Abe said through a translator.

"We managed to agree that we will renew these talks and we will speed up this process. I consider this a great result of this meeting."

Abe, who has always insisted that building strong personal relations with Putin was key for solving the problem, added: "I feel that we have established personal, trusting relations."

The dispute surrounds the southernmost four of the Kuril islands -- known in Japan as the Northern Territories -- which have been controlled by Moscow since the end of World War II but are still claimed by Tokyo.