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    Kuril Islands

    Japan Hosts Ceremony Devoted to First Flight to Southern Kuril Islands

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    Asia & Pacific
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    A ceremony devoted to the first flight between Japan's Hokkaido island and Russia’s Southern Kuril Islands took place on Saturday in Nakashibetsu settlement, from where a Russian charter aircraft is expected to transfer a group of Japanese nationals who wish to visit ancestral graves within a visa-free regime the following day.

    NAKASHIBETSU (Japan), (Sputnik) — On April 27-28, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Russia and held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, during which the sides reached an agreement to provide an opportunity for former Kuril Islands' residents to travel to the islands by plane without visas.

    Japan's State Minister for Foreign Affairs Nobuo Kishi said during the ceremony that the launch of the flight was a "big step" toward the improvement of conditions for the Japanese to visit the islands, which Tokyo calls the Northern Territories.

    The plane of Russia's Far East air carrier Aurora will take 70 people on board and leave for Kunashir at 8:30 a.m. local time (23:30 GMT). The aircraft will arrive on the island at 9:45 a.m. local time (00:45 GMT). The flight program also includes visiting the Iturup island.

    The Russian-Japanese relations have long been complicated by the fact that the two nations have never signed a permanent peace treaty after World War II ended. This was due to a disagreement over a group of islands, which Russia calls the Southern Kurils and Japan the Northern Territories, which consist of four territories: Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and Habomai.

    The most recent meeting between Putin and Abe took place on April 27 and was called constructive by both leaders. Putin promised to organize a trip for a group of Japanese officials and businessmen to the Southern Kuril islands, while Abe noted he was ready to move forward with the matter surrounding the signing a Russia-Japan peace treaty.

    Putin and Abe are scheduled to meet on the sidelines of the upcoming G20 summit, which will be held in Hamburg, Germany, on July 7-8.

    Tags:
    visas, Vladimir Putin, Shinzo Abe, Far East, Japan, Russia, Kuril Islands
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