BEIJING (Reuters) - The world cannot afford to stand by and look on with folded arms but must also not "arbitrarily interfere" in the Syrian crisis, Chinese Foreign Ministry Wang Yi told a U.N. Security Council meeting, repeating a call for a political solution.
Russia and the United States faced off at the United Nations on Wednesday over parallel air campaigns in Syria, with both sides claiming legitimacy for their actions but differing over the role of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Russia launched its first air strikes in Syria since the Middle Eastern country's civil war began in 2011, giving only an hour's notice to the United States, which has led a coalition of Western allies and regional states flying missions for a year.
Wang told the Security Council that the world needed to get a grip on the humanitarian crisis and push the peace process.
"The Syrian crisis has been going on for five years now. The international community cannot look on without lifting a finger, but also ought not to interfere arbitrarily," Wang said, according to a Foreign Ministry statement released on Thursday.
"A political resolution for the Syrian crisis is the fundamental way out," he added.
There was no direct mention of either the air strikes or Assad. China generally votes with fellow permanent Security Council member Russia on the Syria issue.
Wang also met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, and told him China believes the world should respect Syria's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, the official Xinhua news agency added.
"China has no self-interest in the Middle East, so China is willing to play a constructive role," the report quoted Wang as saying.
China, a low-key diplomatic player in the Middle East despite its dependence on the region for its oil, has repeatedly called for a political resolution and warned that military action cannot end the crisis.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Michael Perry)