TOKYO, January 27. /TASS/. Russian and Japanese diplomats will meet in Moscow on February 1 to discuss joint economic activity on the Kuril Islands, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters Friday.
"In order to make progress in the peace treaty issue we intend to hold a constructive exchange of opinions on bilateral relations, joint economic activity on the four islands and the free travel for former residents," he said.
The Japanese delegation will be led by Deputy Foreign Minister Takeo Akiba, who will replace Tikahito Harada as the Japanese government's envoy for relations with Russia. The Russian delegation will be headed by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov.
Kishida also said he might meet with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the G20 ministerial meeting in Bonn on February 16-17.
"A number of ministers have been replaced recently, and we should use such opportunities to improve contacts. As far as a bilateral meeting with minister Lavrov is concerned, we both need to confirm our participation there first. If yes, then, naturally, there is an opportunity to meet," he said.
The first visit of the Russian president to Japan in 11 years, which took place on December 15-16, 2016, was devoted to the peace treaty and the Southern Kuril Islands issue, as well as bilateral economic cooperation.
After the meetings, Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe adopted a joint statement noting that an important step towards signing the peace treaty could be launching consultations on the joint economic activity of Russia and Japan on the Southern Kuril Islands.
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.