Russia not expecting progress at summit with Japan

A senior Russian diplomat indicated it is unlikely a breakthrough will be made on signing a peace treaty with Japan at a bilateral summit planned for this week.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov spoke to reporters in Vladivostok on Tuesday, ahead of the meeting between President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday.

Morgulov said he would not expect any breakthrough since the negotiation process is lengthy. He added that the two countries' positions significantly differ.

The diplomat noted that Russia will continue dialogue with Japan on those differences to keep searching for ways to achieve mutually acceptable solutions.

He revealed a plan to visit Tokyo next week for talks with his Japanese counterpart.

Russia agreed with Japan last November to accelerate bilateral negotiations toward a peace treaty based on a 1956 joint declaration. It states that Russia will hand over two of four Russian-held islands after a peace treaty is concluded.

Russia controls the islands. Japan claims them. The Japanese government maintains the islands are an inherent part of Japan's territory. It says the islands were illegally occupied after World War Two.

But Moscow insists Japan should first recognize that the islands became part of Russian territory as a result of World War Two.

The territorial issue has prevented the countries from signing a peace treaty even though the second world war ended more than 70 years ago.