January 21, 2019 / 10:20 AM / 3 months ago

Kremlin downbeat on Japan peace deal chances before Abe visit

Russia's President Vladimir Putin attends a signing ceremony following a meeting with his Zimbabwean counterpart Emmerson Mnangagwa at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia January 15, 2019. Sergei Chirikov/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Kremlin on Monday played down the notion that Russia and Japan would be able to swiftly clinch a World War Two peace deal or resolve a decades-old territorial dispute, a day before the two countries are due to hold talks on the issues.

Japan is seeking a peace deal with Russia it hopes will end a dispute over islands captured by Soviet troops in the last days of World War Two, a disagreement that has long soured bilateral relations.

The islands are known as the Southern Kuriles in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has launched a diplomatic campaign to strike a deal with Moscow.

Abe and President Vladimir Putin are due to hold talks in Moscow on Tuesday after Tokyo and Moscow agreed to intensify their search for a solution.

The Kremlin warned on Monday that neither Russia nor Japan would abandon their national interests however, that everyone should be realistic about the difficulty of clinching a deal, and that negotiations were still in their early phases.

When asked about a report from Japan’s Kyodo news agency which cited unnamed government sources as saying Abe planned to propose signing a peace treaty if Moscow handed back control of two of the disputed islands, the Kremlin declined to comment.

“Let’s wait for tomorrow’s talks,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

“Again though, we urge everyone to be realistic and to proceed from the fact that we must seek a solution with constant respect for the national interests of the two countries.

“No one is going to give ground on their national interests,” said Peskov.

Reporting by Maria Kiselyova and Andrew Osborn; writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by Andrew Osborn

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