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|Monday, September 04, 2000, updated at 14:45(GMT+8)|
Putin, Mori Begin Talks on Peace TreatyVisiting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori began Monday their first round of talks which are expected to focus on a bilateral peace treaty Russia and Japan are struggling to conclude by the end of this year.
Putin and Mori are scheduled to hold three rounds of talks during the Russian president's three-day official visit to Japan from Sunday.
In Monday's talks, Putin and Mori are expected to take up a decades-old territorial dispute that has prevented Russia and Japan from signing the peace pact.
The two countries remain far apart over a string of Russian-held islands off Japan's northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido. The islands are known as the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia.
Japan has called for the return of the islands, which were seized by Soviet troops at the end of World War II, but Russia has rejected the calls.
The two countries agreed in 1997 to conclude a peace pact by the end of 2000, but negotiations have stalled due to differences over ways to resolve the territorial row.
In April 1998, Japan offered a compromise that would give Russia temporary administrative rights over the islands as long as Moscow agreed to draw a demarcation line between the northernmost of the disputed islands and Urup Island.
But Russia rejected the proposal in November that year. Instead, Moscow proposed signing a broader "peace, friendship and cooperation treaty" and leaving the resolution of the islands problem to a separate pact.
Mori is expected to reiterate Japan's compromise plan in the talks, but Putin is unlikely to make any concessions, analysts said.
As the gap between the two countries remains wide, analysts said, Putin and Mori might again end up their talks merely confirming the two countries' resolve to continue negotiations on the issue.
Earlier Sunday, Putin signaled his intention to resist Japan's demand for the turnover of the islands, saying, "We are not talking about turning over the (Southern) Kuril Islands."
"We are negotiating over the issue, but it is no more than that," Putin told reporters in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, capital of Sakhalin, before leaving for Tokyo.
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