A delegation of Japanese officials and businessmen arrived at Russia’s Kunashir Island on Wednesday to inspect facilities that may be used for joint Russian-Japanese business projects at the Kuril Islands, which Japan calls its Northern Territories.

“For the first time ever, the islands accept such a big and representative business mission from Japan. It is a huge step forward in developing bilateral relations and detailing important parameters of the future joint activity in southern Kurils. Of cours, a lot of work remains to be done before these projects take a practical shape,” said Sakhalin Region Governor Oleg Kozhemyako, who accompanies the delegation.

“On our part, we will do our best to ensure a comfortable environment on the islands to businessmen from Russia and Japan,” he said, adding that the region’s government was ready to take all necessary measures to support Japanese enterpreneurs, including mechanisms of private-state partnership and subsidies.

Eiichi Hasegawa, a Japanese prime minister’s special adviser who leads the Japanese delegation, said the delegation was trying to “find as many areas of common interests as possible” during their trtp.

He said the main task of the visit was to inspect sites where Russian and Japanese businessmen may launch joint projects and outline the most promising areas of cooperation.

On Wednesday, one of the delegation’s groups will visit the Kunashir fishing industry enterprises and two others will travel to the region’s energy, healthcare, retail and tourist facilities.

The delegation of 70 Japanese officials and businessmen will travel to the Iturup Island on Wednesday evening. On June 30, the group will gather at the Shikotan Island to sum up the results of the meeting.

The visit was held in line with agreements reached during the meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Moscow on April 27.

Russia and Japan have been holding consultations since the mid-20th century in order to clinch a peace treaty as a follow-up to World War II. The Kuril Islands issue remains the sticking point since after WWII the islands were handed over to the Soviet Union while Japan has laid claims to the four southern islands.

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