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Alexander Panov

Professor at the Diplomacy Department at MGIMO Russia, Chief Research Fellow of the Institute for U.S. and Canadian Studies, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation, RIAC member

For Russia and Japan to continue territorial and peace treaty negotiations will be meaningless if both sides just insist on their stances, a former Russian diplomat said in an interview with Jiji Press on Tuesday.

If the two countries fail to produce any results, with bilateral relations remaining lukewarm, such negotiations will worsen their relations, former Russian Ambassador to Japan Alexander Panov warned.

Panov thus questioned the possibility that Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Japan this year for such talks.

Asked about the resumption last month of subcabinet-level talks between the two countries on the bilateral territorial dispute over four Russia-held northwestern Pacific islands, Panov said the two sides only stated their positions and failed to seek any solution, compromise or road map in the talks.

Negotiations need an amicable and neighborly relationship, Panov said, and they will be unrealistic as long as Japan continues to adopt a hostile policy. Russia and Japan have no willingness to work out a solution, and such a situation cannot be called negotiations, he added.

The territorial dispute over the islands seized from Japan by the then Soviet Union at the end of World War II has prevented Japan and Russia from concluding a peace treaty.

Panov said many people view current relations between Russia and Japan as the worst since the Soviet Union's collapse. The two countries are at loggerheads over international issues such as the Ukraine and Syria situations, he noted.

The former ambassador said he can never understand why Japan criticizes Russia for its airstrikes in Syria.

Regarding the judo term "hikiwake," or draw, which Putin has mentioned for a solution to the territorial dispute, Panov said that in a joint statement with Japan in 1956, the Soviet Union made the concession of promising the return of two of the four islands. Basically, Japan should not be unhappy with this, he said.

In 2001, Putin proposed negotiations based on the 1956 statement, but Japan rejected this, Panov said.

Since Japan has no intention of holding realistic talks and is not ready to make a concession, Russia maintains that the territorial issue has been already resolved, he said.

Asked what Russia expects from a possible visit to Japan by Putin, Panov said that Russia has made no actual preparations and it is obvious that Putin has no intention of visiting Japan this year.

With both countries unable to sign an agreement, a bilateral summit would be a meeting in which the participants talk about unpleasant things, negatively affecting bilateral relations, Panov said.

In the present circumstances, bilateral negotiations will have absolutely no results, he said. Russia has no expectations unless Japan changes its stances over sanctions against Russia for its annexation of Crimea and over the territorial row, he added.


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