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Moscow, Tokyo to discuss visa-free travel for Japanese ex-residents of Kurils on April 11

Last year, Russia and Japan organized the first charter flight to the Kuril Islands for former Japanese residents

TOKYO, April 10. /TASS/. Russian and Japanese top diplomats will hold a meeting in Tokyo on April 11 in order to discuss visa-free travel to the South Kuril Islands for former Japanese residents, said the Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono on Tuesday.

"We have decided to hold a meeting between both foreign ministers on April 11 to discuss the issue of [humanitarian] exchange, and another one on April 24 - to discuss joint projects [in the sphere of economics]," Kono noted. The Japanese top diplomat also stressed that Tokyo "wants to accelerate the preparations for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Russia in May."

Last year, Russia and Japan organized the first charter flight to the Kuril Islands for former Japanese residents. An agreement on visa-free travel was reached during a meeting between Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin that took place in April 2017 in Moscow. Also in 2017, Russia simplified sea travel procedures to these territories for former Japanese residents.

Moscow and Tokyo have held negotiations for many decades in an effort to hammer out a peace deal on the outcome of World War II. The main obstacle is the southern part of the Kuril Islands. At the end of WWII, the archipelago became part of the Soviet Union, but Japan is claiming Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and a group of islets, which it calls Habomai. The Russian Foreign Ministry repeatedly stated that Russian sovereignty over these islands is indisputable and that it is based on corresponding international documents.

Both parties see joint economic activity on the islands as the first step towards formulating a peace treaty. However, as noted by Japanese observers, the two countries have different approaches to the implementation of such projects. Russia maintains that this should be done within the framework of the Russian legal system, while Japan advocates creating a special system on these territories.