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Russia ready to soften visa regime with Japan — ambassador

December 22, 2015, 9:12 UTC+3 TOKYO
The ambassador said the sanctions that Japan introduced against Russia amid the Ukrainian crisis have had a negative impact on bilateral contacts
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©  ITAR-TASS/Yuriy Smityuk

TOKYO, December 22. /TASS/. Moscow is ready to mitigate the visa regime with Japan up to the abolition of visas, Russia’s Ambassador to Japan Yevgeny Afanasyev has told a news conference at the National Press Club.

"Russia is ready to mitigate the visa regime and even to abolish it. We are working on that," the ambassador said. He noted that tourism was an important area of bilateral cooperation, but the level of tourist traffic between the two countries was not very high at the moment. According to statistics, about 60,000 Russian tourists visit Japan every year, and approximately the same number of Japanese tourists visit Russia.

Russia ready to develop dialogue with Japan at all levels 

According to the ambassador, Moscow is prepared to develop dialogue with Tokyo at all the levels.

"We started with very good positions and gradually developed contacts at all the levels, including the highest one - the ministerial. We also develop cooperation in the sphere of culture, economy and the military sphere," the ambassador said at the press conference.

The ambassador said the sanctions that Japan introduced against Russia amid the Ukrainian crisis have had a negative impact on bilateral contacts. "In particular, the visit of Japanese Foreign Minister [Fumio Kishida] to Russia has been delayed for more than 1.5 years," the diplomat reminded.

"However, the second half of this year showed that Russia and Japan need bilateral meetings at the highest level and they took place in New York and Antalya. We highly appreciate this," Afanasyev said.

"We continue holding talks on the issue of the peace deal despite differences in our positions. We have to do a great job the next year in this area," the ambassador said.

Russia and Japan have no peace treaty signed after World War II. The settlement of the problem inherited by Russia’s diplomacy from the Soviet Union is hampered by the years-long dispute over the four islands of Russia’s Southern Kurils - Shikotan, Khabomai, Iturup and Kunashir, which Japan calls its northern territories.

Moscow, Tokyo discuss date of Putin’s visit to Japan 

The diplomat also noted that Moscow and Tokyo are discussing the date of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Japan that is due to take place "in an appropriate time." 

"Prime Minister [Shinzo] Abe has invited President Putin to visit Japan and his invitation has been accepted," the ambassador said.

"The visit should take place in the most appropriate time for the both sides. Many people say it was delayed but no specific dates were set," the diplomat said, adding that it is most important to discuss what needs to be done to hold the visit.

The sides should particularly outline the deals that will be signed during the visit and what projects will be launched. "We should focus on this work and the date will come up itself."

"Besides, it is important to note that our leaders remain in a permanent contact," the ambassador said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Antalya on November 16 that the Japanese prime minister plans to visit one of Russia’s regions before Putin’s official visit to Tokyo. Peskov stressed that Putin’s visit to Japan "will be further discussed."

Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said on December 11 that Tokyo continues looking for possibilities to hold a dialogue with Russia at the highest level in accordance with bilateral agreements.

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