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MOSCOW, February 1. /TASS/. The first round of the Russian-Japanese consultations on joint economic activity on the South Kuril Islands will be held in Tokyo in March, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.
The agreement was reached at Wednesday’s meeting in Moscow between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov and his Japanese counterpart Takeo Akiba, the ministry said.
"The sides agreed on holding the first round of bilateral consultations in Tokyo in March on the issues of joint economic activity on the South Kuril Islands," it said in a statement.
Morgulov and Akiba also exchanged views on the development of "bilateral political dialogue, economic cooperation, cultural and humanitarian exchanges, and also the Russian-Japanese cooperation on the international arena in the light of implementing the results of the official visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Japan in December 2016."
The Russian president’s visit to Japan was devoted to the peace treaty and the South Kuril Islands issue as well as bilateral economic cooperation. After the talks, Vladimir Putin and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe adopted a statement saying that the beginning of consultations on the joint Moscow-Tokyo economic activities on the South Kuril Islands could be an important step towards signing a peace treaty.
The parties said they believe that this statement and any agreements reached on its basis on developing joint economic activity and its implementation "do not pose damage the positions of Russia and Japan on the issue of a peace treaty."
Russia and Japan have been in talks to sign a peace treaty since the middle of last century. The main stumbling block to this is the issue of the ownership of the South Kuril Islands. After the end of World War II the Kuril Islands were incorporated into the Soviet Union. However, the ownership of Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan Islands and the Habomai Islands is challenged by Japan. Russia’s Foreign Ministry has stated many times that Russia’s sovereignty over the islands is beyond doubt. In 1956, the Soviet Union and Japan signed a joint declaration on ceasing the state of war, however no peace treaty has been signed until now.