China's foreign minister has said Russia is his country's "most important strategic partner" as he refused to condemn the invasion of Ukraine.
Wang Yi said ties with Moscow constituted "one of the most crucial bilateral relationships in the world".
“No matter how perilous the international landscape, we will maintain our strategic focus and promote the development of comprehensive China-Russia partnership in the new era,” Mr Wang told reporters at a news conference on the sidelines of the annual meeting of China’s ceremonial parliament.
“The friendship between the two peoples is iron clad,” he added.
China has broken with the US, Europe and others that have imposed sanctions on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine.
Beijing says that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations should be respected but that sanctions create new issues and disrupt the process of a political settlement.
China’s Red Cross has said however it will provide humanitarian aid to Ukraine “as soon as possible”.
“China is willing to continue to play a constructive role in pushing for peace and promoting talks, and is willing to work with the international community to carry out necessary mediation when needed.”
China proposes that “humanitarian action” must abide by the principles of neutrality and impartiality, and humanitarian issues should not be politicised, Mr Yi added.
Much attention has been paid to a meeting between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian president Vladimir Putin in Beijing on February 4th, after which the sides issued a joint statement affirming "their strong mutual support for the protection of their core interests".
Russia endorsed China's view of Taiwan as an "inalienable part of China, and opposes any forms of independence of Taiwan", while China backed Russia in opposing the further enlargement of Nato.
Since then, Mr Xi’s government has refused to criticise the attack but tried to distance itself from Mr Putin’s war by calling for dialogue and calling for respect for sovereignty.
That prompted suggestions Mr Putin failed to tell the Chinese leader his plans before their statement.
Beijing has denounced trade and financial sanctions on Moscow and says Washington is to blame for the conflict. – AP/Reuters