Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s answer to media questions regarding Russia-Japan relations (Moscow, January 17, 2017)
Question: Russian President Vladimir Putin’s official visit to Japan in December 2016 was the most important event in our bilateral relations. How would you characterise it and what is the most important outcome of the visit, in your opinion?
An agreement was reached on joint economic operations on the Kuril Islands. The Japanese consider this an important decision, but it will not be easy to implement. How can mutually beneficial conditions be created in this regard?
S.Lavrov: I think the most important result of the visit was a very clear, unambiguous confirmation of mutual intent to bring our relations to a qualitatively new level without taking into account some external factors or the current environment. This is important because we know what kind of pressure was put on Japan by the outgoing US administration: here too, it tried to undermine prospects for normal relations so that the Japanese government would abstain from meeting with the Russian President or would lower the level of the meetings. The outgoing US administration is behaving indecently. I will repeat, even in this case they tried to take advantage of their relations with Japan, tried to treat their Japanese allies as second-class, subordinate members of the international community. So under these conditions, the determination outlined in the joint documents to bring Russian-Japanese relations to a qualitatively new level is very important, despite the external factors.
Mr.Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to continue negotiations on developing a peace treaty. This task will be given to our negotiating teams at the deputy foreign minister level. It was decided to, as you said, prioritise the development of joint economic activity and liberalise the travel restrictions, first for the former residents of the islands and relatives who want to visit the graves of their families. This process has already been initiated. Hiroshige Seko, the Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry, visited Moscow after President Putin’s trip to Japan, to begin discussing this issue with his Russian colleagues.
Naturally, our position is based on the tangible results of the Russian-Japanese summit, that is, twelve intergovernmental agreements and about 70 business agreements. One of the most important ones was the agreement to establish a Russian-Japanese investment fund. We feel very positive about the visit; the goals were clearly set. It will not be easy to reach them, as President Vladimir Putin said at the news conference, given the issue of the peace treaty. However, both parties are striving to solve these issues based on the vital interests of the Russian and Japanese people and not let other countries meddle in the process. There is much work ahead, but we are ready for it.