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Russia: Yeltsin Presents Proposal On Disputed Islands

Moscow, 12 November 1998 (RFE/RL) - President Boris Yeltsin today presented Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, the first Japanese leader to officially visit Moscow in 25 years, with a Russian plan to end a territorial dispute that has divided the two nations for decades. Also today, Obuchi's press secretary told reporters that the next $800 million tranche of a $1.5 billion loan to Russia will be extended within a few weeks, not months. Previously, Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura had said the tranche will not be released until IMF conditions are met

Yeltsin presented the proposals to settle the conflict over four Pacific islands at a meeting with Obuchi in the Kremlin. Russian officials did not immediately describe the proposal but Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said it created conditions for joint economic management of the Kurile islands.

Ivanov said both sides would also sign a joint statement which would incorporate initiatives undertaken over the past five years and define Russian-Japanese relations into the next century.

A spokesman for Obuchi said Tokyo has not had time to study the Russian proposal. However, he said he believes Russia and Japan are "solidly on the way" to a peace treaty by 2000.

The four southernmost islands just north of Hokkaido were seized by the Soviet Union in the final days of World War Two and Japan has been claiming them ever since. The dispute has prevented the two nations from formally signing a peace treaty. Some residents of the island recently collected signatures in favor of their land being leased to Japan.

Former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto presented Japan's proposals to end the dispute when he met Yeltsin in Japan in April. The Japanese proposals have not been made public.

Obuchi is due to meet Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov tomorrow.