Russia’s state-run RIA Novosti news agency carried an interview with a top foreign policy adviser to President Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity.
The adviser referred to a 1997 agreement between then Japanese prime minister Ryutaro Hashimoto and Russian president Boris Yeltsin. They agreed to do their utmost to resolve the dispute and conclude a peace treaty by 2000.
The adviser called it a historic opportunity and said he doubts any Russian president would ever offer Japan such a compromise again.
Russia’s president-in-waiting, Vladimir Putin, told foreign correspondents in March that he hopes to resolve the territorial issue in a mutually acceptable manner, and put an end to the dispute.
The adviser apparently reiterated Russia’s position that the dispute cannot be resolved as long as Japan insists on confirming its sovereignty over all four islands.
Putin is due to take office on Monday. Arrangements are now being made for Putin to meet Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on the sidelines of the Group of 8 Summit in the United States in mid May.