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    MOSCOW, March 16, 2004. (RIA Novosti) -- On Tuesday Russian President Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Japan's initiative.

    Mr. Koizumi congratulated Vladimir Putin on his victory in the presidential elections, the Kremlin press service said.

    Mr. Putin and Mr. Koizumi discussed vital bilateral issues, including the schedule of summits for 2004.

    On Monday, March 15, the Japanese Prime Minister sent an official message to Vladimir Putin. He expressed hope for boosting the conclusion of a peace treaty between the two countries in the conditions of further implementation of the Russo-Japanese plan of actions and development of bilateral relations as a whole.

    The 150th anniversary of the establishment of Russian-Japanese interstate relations will be marked in 2005. "An important stage of Russian-Japanese relations lies ahead," the Premier said.

    A joint statement on the plan of actions, a big political document outlining further efforts of the two countries, in particular, the peace treaty talks, was signed during the Japanese Prime Minister's visit to Russia on January 9-12, 2003.

    According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, Japan's territorial claims to the southern Kurile Islands is one of the stumbling blocks. There are other problems such as Japan's low investments in Russia's economy and Tokyo's refusal to reregister the property of the former Soviet Union in Japan on Russia.

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