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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kurils Deal Linked to Economic Ties

Ria-NovostiPresident Dmitry Medvedev sharing a chuckle with French President Nicolas Sarkozy during a G8 tree-planting ceremony in Toyako, Japan, on Tuesday.
TOYAKO, Japan — Japanese Prime Minister Jasuo Fukuda took eight aides into his talks with President Dmitry Medvedev on the sidelines of a G8 summit on Tuesday. Medvedev arrived with five aides.

Still, the officials failed to reach a resolution over the disputed Kuril Islands, with the Russian side linking a deal to closer economic ties with Japan.

A solution to the "complex problem" requires a "good atmosphere," including increased economic and humanitarian ties, Medvedev's top foreign policy aide Sergei Prikhodko, who participated in the meeting, told reporters.

Japan, however, believes that closer economic ties are stymied by the dispute over the Kurils, which it wants back after the Soviet Union seized them during World War II, and the lack of a postwar peace treaty.

Fukuda made no public comment about the Kurils on Tuesday, instead indicating hope that negotiations would be easier with Medvedev than his predecessor, Vladimir Putin, and that rule of law would be protected in Russia.

"I noticed that after you assumed the office of the president you proclaimed new directions, first and foremost attaching great importance to the protection of freedom and the supremacy of law," he told Medvedev.

A desire by Japanese officials to charm their Russian visitors was almost palpable as they gathered for the talks in a library on the 11th floor of the posh Windsor hotel, whose giant, floor-to-ceiling windows offer a spectacular view of the volcanic Toya Lake and forest-carpeted mountains. In an indication of the significance of the talks, Fukuda was joined at the table by the eight aides, while Medvedev had the five aides. On Monday, by comparison, Medvedev met with individual G8 leaders in a small, windowless room and was accompanied by only three aides.

The Russian and Japanese officials were all smiles and niceties as they went into the talks, and neither side mentioned the Kurils. Prikhodko said afterward that Japan had raised the "traditional" issue and had received what appeared to be a largely traditional Kremlin response.

"We are open about the fact that a tangible movement toward an agreement on a mutually acceptable option has not been achieved so far," Prikhodko said. "We never said we'll ensure some kind of progress on that."

At the meeting, Medvedev called for patience and "a departure from extreme stances," Prikhodko said. During Putin's presidency, Russia offered to return two of the smaller islands, while Japan said it wanted all four islands back.

Fukuda, who is keen to intensify ties, agreed with Medvedev to meet on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Peru in November and in Moscow as well, Prikhodko said. He also invited Putin, who now serves as prime minister, and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to visit Tokyo soon.

Fukuda last met with Medvedev, then president-elect, in Moscow in April.

Medvedev praised a decision by state-run Japan Bank for International Cooperation to co-finance a loan to back the Sakhalin-2 liquefied natural gas project and welcomed an offer by Fukuda to invest in environmentally friendly technologies in Russia's Far East.

Japan has made eco-friendliness a leading theme of the summit, using snow from the mountains to flush toilets and air condition a media center for reporters in the village of Rusutsu. Fuel cell buses carry reporters and officials to the Windsor hotel, the summit's official venue, and a cable rail link brings them back from the hotel atop Poromoi Mountain. Even Tuesday's meeting between Fukuda and Medvedev was labeled eco-friendly because the two delegations went into the meeting without their neckties. An official with Japan's Foreign Ministry, Hiroko Kitamura, said the ties were skipped so air conditioners would not need to be turned on if the delegates got hot.

The walls of Tuesday's meeting hall were lined with Japanese vases and albums featuring collections of European and Japanese art. No maps of Japan were in sight. A Kremlin official said the Russian delegation had noticed maps of Japan that included the Kurils in other parts of the summit venue but decided not to raise the issue with the hosts.

Medvedev, speaking to Russian reporters earlier Tuesday, said Russia had proposed to other G8 countries the organization of a grain summit of G8 agriculture ministers and the creation of an alternative to the Energy Charter and other agreements that "either don't work or work inefficiently." Russia has not ratified the Energy Charter, which pushes signatories to open up their energy markets. The new energy agreement should bring together producers and consumers as well as transit states, Medvedev said.

Medvedev said the grain summit proposal had received support, but he did not say how the idea of a new energy agreement was met.

Medvedev also said he was enjoying the relaxed atmosphere of the summit, where "one can say anything he pleases" or take a leader aside and "say something in an ear." The three-day summit ends Wednesday.

The most important thing is that "we are communicating informally, in ties and without ties, communicating on a first-name basis — this too facilitates the contacts," he said in comments released by the Kremlin. "There is no need to recite titles and positions."

G8 leaders on Tuesday pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent by 2050. Russia's G8 envoy, Alexander Pankin, said cooperation from countries like China, India and Brazil was needed because the overall level of emissions would remain the same if just the G8 countries cut all of their emissions.

Environmentalists criticized the G8 leaders, saying they were dodging responsibility and reaffirming old decisions. "So little progress after a whole year of minister meetings and negotiations is not only a wasted opportunity, it falls dangerously short of what is needed to protect people and nature from climate change," Kim Carstensen, director of WWF Global Climate Initiative, said in a statement.

On Monday, the leaders celebrated a Japanese Tanabata star festival by writing wishes on strips of paper and attaching them to bamboo branches.

U.S. President George W. Bush wrote a wish "for a world free from tyranny: the tyranny of hunger, disease; and free from tyrannical governments."

Medvedev, however, refrained from making a concrete wish, instead waxing philosophical about the world's responsibility for the future of the planet.

"Let the Milky Way separate Vega and Altair," wrote Medvedev, referring to a Chinese legend that says the two stars can only meet once a year, on July 7.

"But they are united in the universe by the invincible force of their feelings," said his note, the content of which was released by Kremlin officials.

"For the people on Earth this message is instructive: We are also united by responsibility for the future of our common home, whose peace and well-being we are obliged to preserve. I am convinced that the G8 summit on Hokkaido will make its contribution to the achievement of this lofty goal."