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Japanese Foreign Minister Heading To Russia For Peace Deal Talks

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin met at the Kremlin on January 22 to discuss the territorial dispute between their countries.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono is heading to Russia for a new round of talks on a decades-old territorial dispute that has prevented Moscow and Tokyo from signing a peace agreement and formally end World War II.

Kono is set to arrive in Moscow on May 9 and meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov the next day for talks on the dispute over the four southernmost islands in the Kuriles chain, which runs from Hokkaido in Japan to Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula.

Soviet troops seized the islands between the Sea of Okhotsk and the Pacific Ocean during the final days of World War II.

Tokyo's refusal to recognize Moscow's sovereignty there is an issue that has stalled the peace process since the 1950s.

The islands are known in Russia as the Southern Kuriles and in Japan as the Northern Territories.

Russian and Japanese officials have said they were determined to try to find a solution to the dispute between their countries but offered few specifics on whether the sides were close to reaching an agreement.

In January, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that "painstaking work" remains before Moscow can conclude a peace treaty with Tokyo, adding that a settlement that negotiators would propose must be "supported" by the public.

Putin made the comments following talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Kremlin.

Based on reporting by Interfax and TASS