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Russia, Japan say differences remain over disputed islands

AFP  |  Moscow 

and Japan's top diplomats said Friday there was a way to go before their could resolve a World War II-era dispute over a chain of islands, following a meeting in

Ahead of talks, Russia's said "significant differences" remained between and Tokyo's positions, despite several previous rounds of negotiations.

"The task is not easy, it's clear it will only be solved by long, painstaking and creative work," Lavrov told journalists following his meeting with Japanese counterpart

The territorial dispute centres on four islands, between the and the Pacific Ocean, seized by the in the last days of World War II.

The string of volcanic islands are called the Kurils by and the Northern Territories by

"Solving a problem that remains unresolved more than 70 years on from the end of the war is not easy," Kono said at a joint press conference, in remarks translated into Russian.

"It cannot be said that as a result of today's talks we were able to overcome these differences."

has refused to recognise Moscow's sovereignty over the islands, preventing the two from signing a peace treaty formally ending hostilities.

and have made resolving the dispute a priority -- meeting 25 times since 2013 in an effort to build cooperation.

But both face domestic opposition to any compromise and at a meeting in in January fell short of reaching an agreement.

A further meeting between the foreign and defence ministers of the will take place at the end of May in Tokyo, Lavrov said Friday.

Moscow has said negotiations should be based on a 1956 Soviet-Japanese declaration which calls for the signing of a peace accord before the possible handover of two of the smaller islands to

But giving away even uninhabited islands would be poorly received in Russia, where World War II is hugely symbolic and post-war territorial gains are seen as non-negotiable.

Moscow in recent months has taken further steps to consolidate its hold on the islands, which are home to some 20,000 people.

In December said it built four new military barracks in the Kurils, prompting an angry response from

In February it said it had laid fibre-optic cables to provide homes and businesses there with

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, May 10 2019. 19:26 IST