BEIJING (Reuters) - China called for calm and restraint in the Ukraine crisis on Saturday, saying that the issue should be resolved through talks and political means.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi urged all parties to keep in mind the fundamental interests of all ethnic communities in Ukraine and interests of regional peace and stability.
China has said it will not interfere in what it considers an internal affair and that it respects the Ukrainian people's decisions.
The most serious East-West confrontation since the end of the Cold War escalated on Thursday when Crimea's parliament, dominated by ethnic Russians, voted to join Russia and set a referendum for March 16. The conflict resulted from the overthrow last month of President Viktor Yanukovich after protests in Kiev that led to violence.
"The priority now is to exercise calm and restraint and prevent further escalation of the situation," Wang said at his annual news conference.
"It is regrettable that the situation in Ukraine has come to what it is today, yet it is not by accident that the situation has reached this point," he said, adding that there was a complex history behind Ukraine as well as conflicting interests.
"The more complex the problem, the more necessary for it to be handled in a prudent way," Wang said.
China has so far shown little public interest in participating in any financial aid for Ukraine, or getting involved diplomatically, in line with its low-key approach to many international crises.
Wang said that China had a "just and objective position" on the situation in Ukraine and that all sides should have dialogue and consultations to seek a political solution.
"China is in communication with various parties and we will play China's constructive role in bringing about a political settlement of the Ukraine issue," he added.
China has also said it would like to continue to develop "friendly cooperation" with Ukraine and that it respects Ukraine's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.
China and Russia have close ties and see eye-to-eye on many international diplomatic issues, such as the crisis in Syria.
Yanukovich visited China in December in the hope of winning much-needed financial aid, but China did not say it would provide any loans.
Yanukovich said at the time that deals signed with China may bring Ukraine about $8 billion in investment.
(Reporting by Michael Martina; Writing by Ben Blanchard and Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Nick Macfie)