Kremlin: Putin-Abe meeting unlikely to result in serious progress over disputed islands

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a joint news conference with Uzbek President Islam Karimov (not pictured) following their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, April 26, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday is unlikely to result in serious progress over the disputed Kurile Islands, the Kremlin said on Wednesday.

“It is hardly possible to expect imminent and serious progress, because this topic is pretty sensitive and it demands a very scrupulous, long and, what is more important, consistent work at the level of experts,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a conference call with reporters.

The dispute over the islands, known as the Kuriles in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan, has strained relations between the two countries since World War Two, when Soviet forces occupied four islands at the southern end of the chain.

The dispute is so acrimonious that Moscow and Tokyo have still not signed a formal peace treaty.

Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Lidia Kelly and Andrew Osborn