OREANDA-NEWS Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman of the Foreign Ministry, said that Russia is suspending the 1998 intergovernmental agreement with Japan on cooperation in harvesting marine living resources.

"This agreement, built on the basis of taking into account the balance of interests of the two countries, allowed Japanese fishermen to fish within the quota allocated by the Russian side near the southern Kuril Islands", Zakharova said in a comment on the agency's website.

Zakharova noted that the Russian side has always considered bilateral cooperation on the basis of this agreement "as one of the most important areas of Russian-Japanese relations in the field of fisheries".

She explained that Tokyo has frozen the payments due under the agreement, and is also delaying the signing of the annual document on the provision of gratuitous technical assistance to the Sakhalin Region.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs added that the agreement is suspended until the Japanese side fulfills all its financial obligations. Japanese vessels were fishing in the area of the southern Kuriles under an agreement dated February 21, 1998, which gave them the opportunity to fish in this area according to an allocated quota for a certain fee.