The foreign ministers of Japan and Russia have failed to narrow their differences over four Russian-held islands claimed by Japan. But they agreed to continue negotiations.
Taro Kono and Sergey Lavrov met for about 90 minutes on Saturday in Munich, Germany, on the sidelines of a security conference. The ministers are in charge of negotiations on concluding a peace treaty that would include a solution to the islands issue.
Kono said at the start of the meeting that he wants to have thorough discussions based on the agreement reached between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin in November.
The two leaders agreed to accelerate bilateral negotiations based on the 1956 Japan-Soviet joint declaration.
Lavrov called on Japan to recognize Russia's sovereignty over the islands as a prerequisite for negotiations. He said the islands became part of Russian territory as an outcome of World War Two.
Kono responded by explaining Japan's position.
However, the ministers agreed to continue negotiations on the issue.
They decided that vice foreign ministers from both countries will meet soon, followed by a visit to Japan by Lavrov for talks with Kono.
After the meeting with Lavrov, Kono told reporters that he and his Russian counterpart have had heated but candid discussions.
Kono said the issue has been ongoing for 70 years and may not be resolved overnight. He stressed he wants to work hard to reach the goal along with Lavrov.
Russia controls the four islands. Japan claims them. The Japanese government maintains the islands are an inherent part of Japan's territory. It says the islands were illegally occupied after World War Two.