By Ria Novosti
The fate of the disputed Kuril islands in the Pacific Ocean should be decided in a referendum, Russia’s foreign minister said during a visit to Japan on Sunday.
Russia is ready for “joint business activities” on the four islands, Sergei Lavrov told Japan’s national broadcaster NHK.
The four islands – which Russia calls the Southern Kurils and Japan calls the Northern Territories – has been the subject of a territorial dispute between the two nations since the end of World War II. Because of it, the countries have also not yet signed a peace treaty to end the war.
“We don’t want to artificially avoid this problem but it is unrealistic to expect to resolve it in one go,” Lavrov said.
“It is an issue which should be settled in a referendum,” he added.
Last year, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sparked a diplomatic row with Tokyo by making the first ever visit by a Russian leader to the islands. He later said Russia would increase its military presence there. Japan’s then prime minister Naoto Kan called Medvedev’s visit an “inexcusable rudeness.”