- The Washington Times - Friday, June 23, 2017

Britain wishes to resolve the international impasse surrounding WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange more than five years after he sought asylum inside Ecuador’s embassy in London, Quito’s foreign minister said Thursday, potentially paving the way for his safe passage to South America.

“The United Kingdom wants a way out but evidently that is in the hands of the U.K. justice system, they have their procedures, their ways,” Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa told reporters Thursday regarding the dispute surrounding Mr. Assange, Reuters reported.

“This opening has been there and we are working on it,” Ms. Espinosa said.

Mr. Assange, 45, took refuge inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in June 2012 while wanted by Swedish authorities in connection with outstanding rape allegations. Sweden never charged Mr. Assange, however, and formally dropped its case against the WikiLeaks chief last month, nearly seven years after its investigation first began.

London’s Metropolitan Police Service maintains that Mr. Assange violated his bail conditions when he entered the embassy over five years ago and vowed last month to arrest him if and when he decides to exit.

In a statement Friday, Quito said it will continue to shield Mr. Assange within its London embassy in anticipation of Britain’s next move.

“There are rules that both parties must meet, in the case of the asylum seeker, he must be careful to not to interfere in the internal affairs of the host country and I think that is clear to him, and on our side the guarantee to continue protecting his rights,” Ms. Espinosa said.

“The idea, the will and the decision are to arrive at a solution that simply benefits and guarantees the rights of the person under asylum, who in this case is Julian Assange. There is the best disposition and we are looking for the most suitable ways,” she said.

Neither London’s Metropolitan Police Service nor Mr. Assange immediately responded to requests for comment Friday.

Mr. Assange has previously said he fears he’ll be arrested if he leaves the embassy and extradited to the United States, where he may be criminally tried over WikiLeaks’ publication of classified government documents. The Obama and Trump administrations both advocated for Mr. Assange’s arrest, but have failed so far to announce any criminal charges against him in connection with WikiLeaks or otherwise.



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