Any deal to end a territorial row with Japan needs public backing, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday after meeting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, giving a nod to widespread Russian opposition to ceding territory to Japan. Shortly before Putin met Abe in the Kremlin for the latest round of talks on the dispute over a chain of islands in the Pacific Ocean, Russian police detained 11 people protesting against territorial concessions outside the Japanese embassy in Moscow. The islands – known in Russia as the Kuriles and in Japan as the Northern Territories – were seized by Soviet troops at the end of second world war. Since then, Tokyo has been seeking their return. Russia and Japan have still not formally ended World War II hostilities because of the dispute. In prepared remarks to reporters after their talks, Putin and Abe both spoke of their resolve to try to find a solution to the dispute, but they offered few specifics on whether such a deal was close. “Ahead of us lies painstaking work to create the conditions for us to arrive at a mutually-acceptable solution,” Putin said as he stood alongside Abe. “Of course, solutions proposed by negotiators should be acceptable for the peoples of Russia and Japan, supported by the societies of both our countries.” Opinion polls show that the majority of Russian people are opposed to the idea of Russia giving up control of the islands in order to achieve a deal. Abe said he had agreed with Putin that the Japanese and Russian foreign ministers would meet in February to continue talks about a possible deal. The Japanese leader also said an agreement was reached that the Japanese and Russian militaries would build closer ties. Kuril Islands: What to know about the islands at the centre of a territorial spat between Russia and Japan The Soviet Union took the four southernmost Kuril Islands during the final days of the second world war. Japan asserts territorial rights to the islands, which it calls the Northern Territories, and the dispute has kept the countries from signing a peace treaty. Greeting Abe at the start of the talks, Putin noted that their conversation will follow up on recent meetings between the two nations’ top officials. “I’m very glad to see you here. It’s very pleasant that our meetings have become quite regular,” Putin said with a smile. Abe noted that he would like to talk about the peace treaty issue based on last week’s talks between top diplomats of the two countries. “I would like to have a through discussion on the peace treaty,” Abe said through an interpreter. The Japanese leader has held dozens of meetings with Putin in recent years in a bid to solve the dispute, and they agreed in November to accelerate negotiations based on a 1956 Soviet proposal to return two of the islands to Japan. Earlier this month, Abe voiced hope that this year will mark a breakthrough in talks and spoke about an imminent change of the islands’ status – remarks that irked Moscow. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned Japan last week that it must recognise all four islands as part of Russia as a starting point for talks – a tough demand that did not bode well for Abe’s talks with Putin. On Sunday, Kremlin foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov noted that recent statements from Tokyo made the talks between the two presidents even more difficult. Japan’s wheels spin after Russian reality check on disputed Kurils Speaking to the Interfax news agency before the talks, Abe emphasised that the signing of a peace treaty is needed to pave the way for closer cooperation between the two nations. He added that he intends to maintain intensive talks with Putin to reach a “mutually acceptable solution”. Japanese media reports have indicated that Tokyo is open to a deal for the transfer of two smaller islands to Japan, fuelling concerns in Russian nationalist circles. Several dozen demonstrators gathered outside the Japanese Embassy in Moscow to protest against the islands’ return. One of the protesters held a placard reading: “We didn’t vote for the sale of the islands.” Left-wing activist Sergei Udaltsov said Tuesday that 11 protesters were detained by police.