12:29 GMT +318 January 2020
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    If Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sign a peace treaty, it will be an achievement "worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize," Valeriy Kistanov, director of the Center for Japanese Studies at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies, told Sputnik.

    Russia and Japan have been locked in a territorial dispute dating to World War II, which has prevented them from signing a peace accord. While in Japan, President Putin indicated that signing a peace treaty with Japan remains a priority for Moscow.

    "If anyone thinks we're interested only in developing economic links and a peace deal is of secondary importance, that's not the case," the Russian leader said during a news conference with Abe. "For me, the most important thing is to sign a peace agreement because that would create the conditions for long-term cooperation."

    Kistanov referred to this as a priority issue for Abe.

    "Clearly, [the Japanese prime minister] has other issues, goals and tasks. There is the issue of future relations with the United States. There are territorial disputes with South Korea and China, but in this case no solution is in sight," he added.

    Earlier this week, Vladimir Putin and Shinzo Abe held talks during a two-day summit in Japan which was largely focused on economic cooperation and the territorial dispute over the islands known as the Kurils in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan. Both leaders reached an agreement on joint activities in the disputed territories, covering fisheries, tourism, culture and medicine.

    Konstantin Vodopyanov, an expert at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), noted that it remained unclear whether elites in both countries will support this deal.

    "There is strong opposition to Abe's policies in Japan and there is no pro-Russian lobby there," he added. "One should give Abe credit since he had firmly decided to carry out the talks despite Washington's discontent. This indicated that he really wants to make a breakthrough" when it comes to Tokyo's relations with Moscow. "This is a good thing. In any case a dialogue is better than no dialogue at all."

    Vodopyanov further said that the timing for the visit was perfect. Japan appears to be deeply interested in keeping talks with Russia going. For its part, Moscow wants to encourage Japanese businesses to invest in developing the Far East and diversify its economic ties in Asia Pacific.  

    As a result, Russian and Japanese companies signed 68 agreements during Vladimir Putin's visit to Japan. The deals cover such areas as nuclear energy, oil and gas exploration, logistics, investment, pharmaceuticals and agriculture.

    In addition, Putin and Abe have agreed on the idea of joint Russian-Japanese economic activities in the Kuril Islands during the two-day talks. This could have political implications.

    "Mr. Abe and I supported an initiative of establishing joint economic activities on the Southern Kurils. We hope that such cooperation will contribute to creating a favorable atmosphere for the continuation of negotiations on the conclusion of a peace treaty," Putin said.

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    Nobel Peace Prize, peace treaty, bilateral relations, economic cooperation, Vladimir Putin, Shinzo Abe, Japan, Russia, Kuril Islands
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