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    Russian President Vladimir Putin with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

    Abe Calls Advancing Japanese-Russian Dialogue Tokyo's Top Priority

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    TOKYO (Sputnik) - The advancement of dialogue with Russia is the Japanese government's top priority, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Wednesday, adding that the right environment would help facilitate the process.

    "The success of the talks will depend on whether we will be able to conduct them in a quiet environment. Moving the dialogue [with Russia] forward is a top priority for the government," Abe said at a parliament session when confronted with a lawmaker's criticism over the prime minister's allegedly weakening stance on the territorial dispute between the two countries.

    READ MORE: Lavrov Meets Kono: Moscow to Continue Russia-Japan Peace Treaty Talks

    The prime minister reiterated that Japan's position on its claim to the Kuril Islands had not changed, but refrained from using Japan's usual term for the islets —  territories "illegally occupied by Russia" — when talking about them. According to Abe's critics, this deviation from traditional rhetoric might reflect Japan's new position.

    Following his January meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Abe vowed to resolve the territorial dispute with Russia. Abe and Putin are due to meet again in Osaka in June during the G20 Summit, but, according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, no concrete time frame for the resolution of the conflict can be set.

    Russian-Japanese relations have long been complicated by the fact that the two nations never signed a permanent peace treaty after the end of World War II. The deal was never reached because of a disagreement over a group of four islands — Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and Habomai — that Russia has sovereignty over but that are also claimed by Japan. They are collectively referred to as the Southern Kurils by Russia and the Northern Territories by Japan.

    Related:

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    Over 90% of Russians Inhabiting Kuril Islands Oppose Handover to Japan - Poll
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    dialogue, Shinzo Abe, Japan, Russia
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