Russia says talks with Japan still on

8th February 2011, Comments 0 comments

The recent flareup in relations between Russia and Japan will not affect this week's visit to Moscow by Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday.

Friday's meeting between Maehara and Lavrov was scheduled weeks before the two sides embarked on a war of words over the status of four tiny islands seized by Soviet forces from Japan at the end of World War II.

The spat escalated Monday when Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan called President Dmitry Medvedev's recent visit to the Kuril Islands -- known as the Northern Territories in Japan -- an "unforgivable outrage".

The Kremlin quickly responded by noting the the islands' status would "not be subject to any review -- either today or tomorrow."

But Lavrov, while repeating his displeasure over the prime minister's comments and the accompanying anti-Russian demonstrations that were staged in Tokyo on Monday, said that Maehara's visit would go ahead as planned.

"I would never think of linking the desecration of the Russian flag with the visit by the foreign minister of Japan," Lavrov said in reference to an incident that occurred Monday outside Russia's Tokyo embassy.

"He will come, we will talk, and the negotiations will take place on Friday," RIA Novosti quoted Lavrov as saying.

Japan's top diplomat had vowed on Monday to use his Moscow visit to seek the islands' return "even if it costs me my political career."

The windswept Kurils chain was seized from Japan by the Soviet army in 1945, but Tokyo still claims the four islands closest to the Japanese mainland.

Moscow and Tokyo have spent years holding unproductive talks over an issue that has soured trade ties and prevented the two neighbours from signing a formal treaty ending World War II.

© 2011 AFP

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