Assange case affecting ties with Britain: Ecuador FM

Quito: The ongoing case of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has affected the relationship between Ecuador and Britain, according to Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Jose Valencia.

Assange, an Australian national, sought asylum in Ecuador’s embassy in London in 2012 and since then, he has been there.

“It would be unrealistic to say the Assange issue has not affected our relationship with the UK. It has been affected. However, it has not completely collapsed. We still have contact on a variety of issues,” Valencia told Ecuador’s Radio Sucesos on Monday, Xinhua reported.

He added that Ecuador wants to maintain a high level, ongoing mutual relationship with the UK just like it has with other countries.

Referring specifically to the UK, Valencia said, “in the future when the issue of Assange is resolved to everyone’s agreement, the relationship with the United Kingdom will be strengthened even more and will develop at a pace the two countries want.”

Assange sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden where he was sought for questioning for alleged sexual crimes he was alleged to have committed in 2010. He denies the charges.

In May 2017, the Swedish Prosecutor’s Office put aside a pending assault case against Assange. This put an end to Assange’s long judicial battle.

The decision supposedly lifted the international arrest order against him, which should allow Assange to leave the embassy without fear of being arrested.

The UK, however, refuses to grant him safe passage so he can travel to Ecuador. If Assange leaves the Ecuadorian embassy, he will be arrested by British police.

Assange fears Sweden will turn him over to the US, where he would face charges for publishing classified documents on WikiLeaks.

Last December, in an attempt to find a solution, Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno, gave Assange Ecuadorian citizenship and asked the UK to grant him diplomatic status, but the request was denied.

“We don’t believe we can come up with something that can make this case easier without taking into account the other parties — Assange and the British government,” Valencia said.

“Because of this we wait and are confident that both Assange’s legal team and the British government can find a solution,” he added.