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Putin claims return of islets’ sovereignty unwritten in 1956 pact: Abe

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Saturday that Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed transferring the sovereignty of islets at the center of a territorial dispute is “not written” in an agreement struck between Japan and the Soviet Union.


Abe said in an interview with Japanese broadcaster Nippon Television after a two-day summit with Putin this week that the Russian president made the claim about the return of sovereignty being unwritten in the 1956 Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration.


The comment is believed to have been made at the summit which was held in Japan on Thursday and Friday. The two leaders failed to narrow their differences over sovereignty of the isles during their talks.


The declaration says Russia will hand over Shikotan and the Habomai group, two of four disputed islands controlled by Moscow but claimed by Tokyo, after conclusion of a post-World War II peace treaty with Japan.


But the long-standing territorial row has prevented the two countries from sealing a peace pact.


Japan claims the four islands were illegally seized by the Soviet Union after its surrender in the war in August 1945. Russia maintains the Soviet Union took the islands legitimately as a prize of war.


When asked whether Japan has been asked to remove sanctions imposed on Russia in response to the latter’s annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine in return for resolving the territorial row, Abe said, “There were no talks between me and Mr. Putin that (the two will seek to settle the dispute) under the condition.”


In a separate interview with Tass news agency, Abe said he and Putin agreed that the two countries have “unlimited opportunities for development of relations in all areas in case of common effort.”

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