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Japan and Russia considering cruises for tourists around South Kuril Islands — media

According to Kyodo, both sides yet have to "develop ways to perform joint activities without raising legal issues"

MOSCOW, August 15. /TASS/. Japan and Russia are considering the possibility of organizing cruises for tourists around the South Kuril Islands as part of joint economic activities in the area, Kyodo news agency said on Tuesday with reference to diplomatic sources.

Following the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Japan on December 15-16, 2016 and his meetings with Japanese PM Shinzo Abe a joint statement was adopted, which said that the beginning of consultations on joint economic activities on the South Kuril Islands would be an important step towards signing a peace treaty by the two neighbors. Also, the sides assume that the statement and any agreements reached on this background on establishing joint economic activities and the implementation of those activities itself will not hurt the positions of Russia and Japan regarding the peace treaty issue.

The related negotiations process is already underway, the next round of consultations is due in Moscow on August 17.

Earlier the sides exchanged proposal packages on implementation of projects, and a delegation of representatives of the government and business circles from Japan visited the islands in June - the beginning of July to explore the prospects of joint activities.

However, Kyodo said, both sides "are still far in their positions regarding the islands’ sovereignty" and yet have to "develop ways to perform joint activities without raising legal issues." Moscow assumes it is necessary to do it in accordance with the Russian legislation whereas Tokyo insists a "special system" should be established on those territories. According to the sources, the option implying organized cruises with no landing is more easy to implement.

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.