BEIJING - Sanctions are not the best way to resolve the crisis in Ukraine, China's foreign ministry said on Friday, after Crimea's parliament voted to join Russia, in a dramatic escalation of the crisis in the region.
China and Russia, both permanent members of the United Nations' Security Council, have close ties and see eye-to-eye on many global diplomatic issues, such as the crisis in Syria.
On Thursday, US President Barack Obama ordered sanctions on those responsible for Moscow's military intervention in Ukraine, including bans on travel to the United States and freezing of their US assets.
He echoed European Union leaders and the pro-Western government in Ukraine in declaring that the proposed referendum would violate international law.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said it was important to find a political solution.
"China has consistently opposed the easy use of sanctions in international relations, or using sanctions as a threat," he told a daily news briefing.
"In the present situation, we hope that all sides can take steps which avoid a further worsening in tensions and work hard to find a way for a political solution to the crisis. This is the fundamental way out."
Asked if China also believed the referendum in Crimea would be a breach of international law, Qin did not answer directly.
"We call on all sides in Ukraine to peacefully resolve the relevant issue within a legal, orderly framework via dialogue and negotiations and earnestly safeguard the interests of all the people in Ukraine and bring order back as soon as possible and maintain peace and stability in this region."
He did not elaborate.
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.
The foreign ministry has said it will not interfere in what it considers an internal affair and it respects the Ukrainian people's decisions, adding that it would like to continue to develop "friendly cooperation" with Ukraine.
It has also said that China respected Ukraine's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Ukrainian President Viktor 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, who was overthrown last month after three months of street protests, said at the time that deals signed with China might bring Ukraine about $8 billion in investment.