Russian President Vladimir Putin /AFP

Russia President Vladimir Putin has indicated his readiness to ensure his country and Japan sign a peace pact “without any preconditions” by the end of 2018.

The Russian leader made this known just two days after he said that the two countries’ territorial dispute was unlikely to be settled soon.

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The dispute between Russia and Japan centres on the four southernmost islands in the Kuril chain which the Soviet Union occupied at the end of World War II in 1945 but are claimed by Japan.

Speaking at an economic forum in Vladivostok, Putin revealed that “we have been trying to solve the territorial dispute for 70 years. We’ve been holding talks for 70 years.”

The forum was attended by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

“Shinzo said: ‘let’s change our approaches.’ Let’s! Let’s conclude a peace agreement, not now but by year’s end without any preconditions,” Putin said, with the audience breaking into applause.

Putin said the conclusion of such a deal would create a better atmosphere and allow the two countries to “continue to solve all outstanding issues like friends.”

“It seems to me that this would facilitate the solution of all problems which we have not been able to solve during the past 70 years,” he added.

As for the Japanese prime minister, the two countries “have a duty to future generations.”

he said, “Let us walk together mindful of the questions ‘If we don’t do it now, then when?’ And ‘if we don’t do it, then who will?’”