Gambia's new leader Adama Barrow speaks after swearing in as President at the Gambian embassy in Dakar, Senegal, in this still image taken from video, January 19, 2017. RTS via Reuters TV

China called on Thursday called for a “cool-headed” resolution to the political crisis in Gambia, after last-minute talks to resolve a dispute over a transfer of power fell through on Wednesday.

Senegal, with backing from leaders in the region, has threatened to invade Gambia to depose its leader, Yahya Jammeh, if he does not hand over power to challenger Adama Barrow, who beat him in an election in early December.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying urged calm.

“We urge relevant parties to stay cool-headed, to attach importance to the interests of the people and country, to appropriately resolve the political crisis through dialogue and political consultation and to maintain peace and stability,” she told a daily news briefing.

China has a growing diplomatic and business presence in Africa and has been deeply involved in efforts to bring peace to South Sudan, for example.

China resumed diplomatic ties with Gambia in March. The country was previously a diplomatic ally of Taiwan, the self-ruled island China claims as its own. China views Taiwan as a wayward province, with no right to formal foreign ties.

The small West African state had previously been one of only a few African countries, along with Burkina Faso, Swaziland and São Tomé and Príncipe, to recognise Taiwan. São Tomé switched ties to China last month.

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