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#23 Russia’s Putin tells Japan’s Abe: ‘Let’s sign peace deal this year’

VLADIVOSTOK, Russia, Sept 12 (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin turned to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on a conference stage on Wednesday and offered to sign a peace deal to end a decades-old territorial dispute by the end of the year.

"An idea has just come into my head," Putin said to Abe during a question and answer session at an economic forum in the Russian city of Vladivostok.

"Let's conclude a peace treaty before the end of this year, without any pre-conditions." Abe did not respond during the session.

Their two countries have been in dispute for seven decades over a chain of Pacific islands and as a result have still not formally ended their World War Two hostilities. The standoff has held back economic ties between the two near-neighbors.

Later in the same session, Putin said of his offer: "I was not joking." He said his idea was that the two sides sign a treaty first, and then work through the issues on which they are in dispute afterwards.

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