Obama and China's Xi focus on peaceful solution to Ukraine crisis
Military personnel, believed to be Russian servicemen, stand outside a Ukranian military post as Ukranian servicemen look on from behind a gate in the Crimean city of Kerch (THOMAS PETER, REUTERS / March 4, 2014)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama began a new week of diplomatic consultations on the Ukraine crisis with a phone call to Chinese President Xi Jinping that focused on a peaceful solution to Russia's military intervention.
Obama, who is to meet Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk at the White House on Wednesday, is seeking ways to pressure Russian President Vladimir Putin to loosen Russia's grip on the Crimea region of southern Ukraine.
Obama spoke to Xi on Sunday night. China is a key ally of Russia and has heightened tensions with Japan by declaring an air defense zone over remote islands claimed by both countries in the East China Sea.
A White House statement released on Monday gave little detail as to what was discussed between Obama and Xi, saying the two leaders agreed on the "importance of upholding principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, both in the context of Ukraine and also for the broader functioning of the international system."
"The president noted his overriding objective of restoring Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and ensuring the Ukrainian people are able to determine their own future without foreign interference," the White House said.
Obama engaged in various diplomatic conversations over the weekend in the search for a solution to the crisis. Last week Crimea's pro-Moscow parliament voted to stage a March 16 referendum to determine whether the region should be annexed by Russia.
The White House on Sunday said more international pressure on Russia would result if the Crimea vote proceeded.
"If there is an annexation of Crimea, a referendum that moves Crimea from Ukraine to Russia, we won't recognize it, nor will most of the world," deputy White House national security adviser Tony Blinken told CNN.
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Paul Simao)