Russia said Sunday that upcoming discussions aimed at resolving a dispute with Japan over a group of islands claimed by Tokyo would not necessarily result in Moscow handing them over.

“Can you say that this means an automatic return of some territories? Certainly not,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian TV.

The dispute over the Kuril chain started at the end of World War II when their annexation by the Soviets was confirmed in peace treaties between the victorious powers and accepted by Tokyo.

However, Tokyo claims that some islands, which it refers to as its Northern Territories, were not covered in the deal and should be returned.

The dispute is an obstacle to a peace treaty between the two nations that would officially bring World War II hostilities to an end.

In September, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested that both countries sign a peace treaty this year “without any preconditions,” but Tokyo says the territorial dispute should be settled first.

– With reporting from Agence France-Presse