The row over the Kuril islands has stopped Russia and Japan from signing a peace treaty to end World War II. Now, a high-level meeting between Vladimir Putin and Shinzo Abe could finally help break the impasse.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are meeting in Moscow on Tuesday to discuss a decades-long dispute over a group of islands seized by the Soviets at the end of World War II.
The disagreement over the Kuril Islands, which Japan calls its Northern Territories, has prevented the countries from ever signing a peace treaty to formally end the war.
Russian police detained 11 protesters outside the Japanese embassy in Moscow on Tuesday as they rallied against the idea of giving control of the islands to Japan, Russian protest monitor OVD-Info said.
The disputed islands of Iturup (Etorofu in Japanese), Kunashir (Kunashiri), Shikotan and Habomai lie at their closest point just a few kilometers off the north coast of Hokkaido in Japan.
In 1956, the two countries issued a joint declaration that the then-Soviet Union was willing to give up Shikotan and Haboma.
Japan, Russia stand ground
Moscow has urged Japan to accept the document as the basis for negotiations, but on Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied speculation that Russia could give a couple of the islands to Japan as a concession.
"No one is planning to give up their national interests," Peskov said in comments quoted by Russian state news agency TASS.
Japan has ignored Russia's calls to use the 1956 document as a negotiating point.
"We continue to work persistently based on our basic policy that we aim to resolve the issue of the islands and have peace," said Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said in early January.
Russian protesters hold a banner reading "The Kurils belong to Russia!" as they protest over giving Japan the Kuril Islands.
'Accept the result of World War II'
Earlier in January, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov questioned whether Japan had accepted the consequences of World War II.
"Why is Japan the only country in the world that cannot accept the result of World War II in their entirety?" Lavrov said at a press conference.
Both countries have experienced protests over the issue. In Russia, protesters have rallied against ceding control of the islands, while in Tokyo, they have called on the government to reclaim the territory.
In the absence of an agreement, Russia and Japan have pursued economic collaboration on the archipelago, with economic projects in areas such as farming fish and shellfish, wind-generated energy, and tourism, though Moscow says investment is still lacking.
law/rt (AFP, dpa)