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China re-iterates calls for restraint in Crimea
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) March 17, 2014


China said Monday it respected "all countries' independent sovereignty and territorial integrity", in an ambiguous statement after Ukraine's Crimea region voted to join its ally Russia.

The crisis in Ukraine has trapped Beijing in a foreign policy corner of wanting to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Moscow yet shuddering at domestic political tumult backed by foreign powers.

Crimea declared independence from Ukraine and applied to join Russia Monday after an overwhelming 96.6 percent of referendum voters cast their support on Sunday for secession.

"China always respects all countries' independent sovereignty and territorial integrity," foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a regular press briefing, without specifying whose sovereignty he was referring to.

"The Crimea issue should be politically resolved within the framework of law and order," he added.

Hong urged all sides to exercise restraint and for outside actors to work to de-escalate tensions, echoing statements from another foreign ministry spokesman, Qin Gang, on Sunday.

Crimea's move to join Russia came weeks after protesters in Ukraine carried out their own political overhaul, forcing the president to flee after protracted demonstrations that ultimately turned violent.

The interim Ukrainian government is supported by Western countries but rejected by Russia, while the Crimean referendum was denounced by the West and celebrated by Russia.

China meanwhile has sought to juggle both its ties with Russia and its longtime denouncing of intervention in other countries' domestic affairs, particularly popular uprisings, which it fears could occur at some point in its own territory.

China abstained from a UN vote on Saturday to condemn Crimea's referendum, with its ambassador to the international body saying such a move would "only result in confrontation and further complicate the situation".

Beijing also abstained when the Security Council ruled on a similar international crisis between Russia and Georgia in 2008.

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