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West Unites Against Detention of Foreign Nationals in Signal to China

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A group of mostly Western countries led by Canada have formed a coalition against the detention of foreign nationals for diplomatic leverage, taking aim at a practice that diplomats say has been used by Beijing and Tehran.

Fifty-eight nations, including the U.S., Japan, Australia and almost all members of the European Union, have signed a declaration that is nonbinding and has no tools for enforcement. The Canadian foreign ministry, which is launching the initiative publicly on Monday, says that it doesn’t target a single nation but is aimed at bringing diplomatic pressure to bear on the issue.

Canadian Foreign Minister Marc Garneau told reporters Sunday that he is seeking the support of other countries to join the effort to stop the “illegal and immoral” imprisonments. By joining with other nations, he said, “we believe we have a better chance of exerting pressure on those countries that do practice arbitrary detentions,” he said.

Western diplomats have accused China, Iran, Russia and North Korea in recent years of detaining foreign nationals as bargaining chips.

Officials from dozens of countries, including the U.S., U.K. and Germany spoke at a virtual conference hosted by Canada Monday morning to declare support for halting arbitrary detentions.

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