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Russia restores two disputed islands to China

Ending decades of territorial strife, Russia will return two long-disputed islands to China in line with an historic deal inked between Russian FM and his Chinese counterpart, reports Fred Weir.

world Updated: Jul 21, 2008 23:32 IST
Fred Weir

Russia will return two long-disputed islands to China in line with an historic deal inked on Monday between Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and his Chinese counterpart, ending decades of territorial strife between the two Asian giants.

Lavrov said the agreement, signed in Beijing, brings “more than 40 years of negotiations to a conclusion”, according to the official RIA-Novosti agency.

Experts say the territorial disputes that have roiled Sino-Russian relations for centuries are now effectively brought to an end, clearing the way for broader cooperation in trade and global diplomacy. In the 1960s, the former Soviet and Chinese armies fought pitched battles over the two islands, which total 120sq km, located near the confluence of the Amur and Ussuri rivers in eastern Siberia.

The islands were seized and incorporated into the USSR in 1929, at a time when China was weak and unable to resist. Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev began the process of rapprochement with China, signing a deal to regulate the western section of the two countries. Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to settle the more controversial eastern sector, and Russia vowed to return Tarabarov and Bolshoi Ussuriysky islands if Beijing dropped its claims to another group of islands in the Amur River of Khabarovsk.