TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Monday that he hopes for progress in peace treaty talks with Russia but that the decades-old issue cannot be settled in one meeting.
Abe said he wants to discuss the issue candidly with Russian President Vladimir Putin when he visits Japan on Dec. 15-16.
Abe has been betting that his close ties with Putin and the lure of Japanese investment in fields from medical technology to energy could ease progress in the dispute over four islands seized by Russia at the end of World War Two when the leaders meet.
The feud over the islands, called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kuriles in Russia, has kept Tokyo and Moscow from signing a peace treaty formally ending their conflict and strengthening ties in the face of a rising China.
"This is not an issue that can be resolved in just one meeting," Abe told a meeting of government and ruling party officials.
"I want us two leaders to discuss this frankly and with open minds and make progress in negotiations on a peace treaty," said Abe, who has met Putin more than a dozen times since his first 2006-07 term in office.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said over the weekend it would be difficult to close the gap in positions over a peace treaty and territorial dispute with Japan.
(Reporting by Takashi Umekawa, writing by Kaori Kaneko and Linda Sieg; Editing by Stephen Coates)