BEIJING (Reuters) - China's President Xi Jinping on Saturday called for a political solution for the Ukraine crisis to avoid confrontations, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Efforts should be made to "ease the tense situation and avoid acceleration of confrontations and conflicts in an alternative way," Xinhua quoted Xi as telling visiting United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Xi's comments come at a time of renewed concern over an escalation of the conflict in eastern Ukraine. That could mean stronger economic sanctions against Russia from Europe and the United States - and harsher retaliation from Moscow.
China is a key economic and political ally of Russia, and the two countries recently signed a $400 billion gas supply deal.
The shooting-down of a Malaysian plane in eastern Ukraine showed that "it is important and imperative to properly address the Ukraine crisis," Xi said, saying that efforts should be made to prevent Ukraine from falling into a humanitarian crisis.
All parties should work towards a political solution and "negotiate for a program that could take into consideration the interests of all parties in a balanced manner at an early date", Xi said.
Ban was quoted by Xinhua as saying that a political solution, rather than the use of force, is the only right way to resolve the Ukraine issue.
( This refiled version of the story removes extraneous word in the first paragraph).
(Reporting by Kevin Yao; Editing by Richard Borsuk)