Residents of Russia’s Kuril Islands will not be affected by the ongoing negotiations between Russia and Japan on signing a peace treaty, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in an interview with the Argumenty i Fakty newspaper published on Wednesday, TASS reported.
"Any kind of harm to interests of our citizens, residents of the Kuril Islands, is totally ruled out," he said when asked about the possibility of handing over some of the islands to Japan together with the Russian passport holders who are residing there.
Peskov added that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to "search for a formula that will be acceptable for people of the both states and help us sever this Gordian knot."
"The fact that the two nations have no peace treaty is absurd, it puts constraints on the development of our bilateral relations. That’s why it has to be signed. But the question of how it will be done will be made as a result of hard work. But this work must result in a solution that will in no way affect the interests of our population," the Kremlin spokesman said.
Russia and Japan have been in talks to sign a peace treaty since the mid-20th century. The main stumbling block to achieving this is the ownership of the Southern 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 being challenged by Japan. Russia’s Foreign Ministry has stated on numerous occasions that Russia’s sovereignty over the islands is beyond doubt.
Earlier, a spokesman for the Japanese Foreign Ministry told TASS that the Japanese government believes that Moscow and Tokyo intend to hold serious negotiations on a peace treaty and bring this issue to a close. The talks in the Russian capital made it possible to prepare the upcoming visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Moscow and a new bilateral summit due on January 22, the diplomat said.
At the meeting in Singapore on November 14, 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to intensify Russian-Japanese talks on concluding a peace treaty based on the Joint Declaration signed on October 19, 1956. Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed on Monday that Moscow was not going to discuss its sovereignty over the Southern Kuril Islands.