MOSCOW, May 10. /TASS/. Moscow and Tokyo welcome progress in talks about joint economic activities on the southern Kuril Islands, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said following talks with his Japanese counterpart Taro Kono on Friday.
"We have thoroughly discussed matters concerning the launch of joint economic activities on the southern Kuril Islands. We welcomed the fifth round of talks on joint economic activities, held in Tokyo in April, which involved the two countries’ deputy foreign ministers. We agreed to focus on specifying cooperation projects that are at a very advanced stage in order to develop necessary business models," Lavrov pointed out.
The Russian top diplomat noted that the two countries sought to determine mutually beneficial ways to cooperate that "would be in the interests of participating companies and would also contribute to the economic development of the two neighboring regions - the Sakhalin region and the Hokkaido prefecture." "At the end of the day, it should help build trust and boost good neighborly relations between our countries," Lavrov said.
Since the mid-20th century, Russia and Japan have been holding consultations in order to clinch a peace treaty as a follow-up to World War II. The Kuril Islands issue remains the sticking point since after WWII the islands were handed over to the Soviet Union while Japan laid claims to the four southern islands. In 1956, the two countries signed a joint declaration on ending the state of war and restoring diplomatic and all other relations, however, a peace treaty has still not been reached. Moscow has stated many times that Russia’s sovereignty over the islands cannot be called into question.
The two countries have also been holding consultations on joint economic activities on the South Kuril Islands in the areas of aquaculture, greenhouse farming, tourism, wind energy and waste management. The two countries consider joint economic activities to be an important step towards signing a peace treaty. However, Tokyo and Moscow have different views on ways to implement such projects. Russia believes that it should be done in compliance with Russian laws, while Japan suggests establishing some "special system" for the southern Kuril Islands.