Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) meets with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia, on September 2, 2016. (AFP)

Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have agreed to continue talks on the disputed Kuril islands in preparation for a meeting aimed at striking a deal to end the territorial row by December.
"There was an agreement that we will continue these consultations and the results will be passed on during the visit of the Russian leader to Japan, which will take place ... before the end of the year," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday after talks between Putin and Abe.  
He also said Tokyo is interested in solving the territorial row.
Ties between Moscow and Tokyo have been strained for decades over the islands, known in Japan as the Northern Territories and in Russia as part of the Kuril Islands.
All of the Kuril islands, located in the Sea of Okhotsk, have been administered by Russia since the end of World War II, when its forces seized the islands following Japan’s surrender in the war.
Japan, however, claims sovereignty over four of them, Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and Habomai.
The dispute over the islands has prevented the two countries from signing a peace treaty to formally end wartime hostilities.
"Of course the leaders discussed the issue of a peace treaty," Lavrov added.
"Particularly regarding a peace treaty, the two of us alone had quite an in-depth discussion," Abe said in a press conference after the meeting with Putin on the sidelines of Eastern Economic Forum in the Russian city of Vladivostok.


Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L) ride down an escalator during their meeting on the sidelines of Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia, September 2, 2016. (Reuters)

The Japanese official also expressed optimism over reaching a deal based on mutual trust that would be considered in Putin’s upcoming visit to Japan in December.
Before his meeting with Abe, Putin had said, "We're not talking about some exchange or some sale."
"We are talking about finding a solution where neither of the parties would feel defeated or a loser," the Russian president said in an interview with Bloomberg news agency.
"We don't trade in territories, although the problem of a peace treaty with Japan is a key one," he said, noting that Moscow was keen to work with Tokyo to resolve the problem.

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