Ecuador, Britain in talks over Assange standoff, says diplomat

Source: Xinhua| 2018-07-20 04:54:17|Editor: yan
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QUITO, July 19 (Xinhua) -- Ecuador and Britain are "in the process of negotiating" a possible solution to their more than five-year standoff over WikiLeak's founder Julian Assange, a top official said on Thursday.

The anti-secrecy activist has been holed up at Ecuador's embassy in London since 2012, unable to make use of the political asylum the South American country granted him due to Britain's refusal to give him safe passage.

"We are in the process of negotiating" an end to the diplomatic deadlock, acting foreign affairs minister, Andres Teran, told local TV station Teleamazonas.

Ecuador, said Teran, is holding "the highest-level talks with Britain about this situation that we inherited" from the previous administration of ex-President Rafael Correa, who left office in 2017.

The two sides are not on the verge of announcing an agreement, Teran indicated, saying talks have not reached the point where the participation of current President Lenin Moreno is needed.

"The president's participation would have to come at the final stage," Teran added.

Moreno is scheduled to travel to Britain and Spain from July 21 to 27 to strengthen ties and attend the Global Disability Summit, to be held in London, but will not be meeting with British officials over Assange or even visiting his country's embassy, according to Teran.

"Moreno is not expected to visit Ecuador's embassy in London," he added.

British authorities stationed police outside the embassy to arrest Assange should he step outside the building, which is considered Ecuadorian territory. After more than five years of virtual house arrest, his health is reportedly deteriorating.

The arrest warrant stems from charges, now dropped, of sexual misconduct in Sweden, but Assange believes Britain intends to hand him over to the U.S. government so it can indict him for blowing the whistle on war crimes.

However, "we are not in talks with the United States," said Teran.

Earlier this month, Moreno suggested a breakthrough was possible, announcing he initiated "pretty fruitful talks" with British authorities, who delivered a "certain type of information for us to be able to use in favor of international law and Mr. Assange's right to life."

Ecuador "has to find a solution and if we do it together with the British government so much the better," said Moreno, indicating a medium-term solution was within reach.

Moreno's government tried to break the deadlock in December by granting Assange citizenship and requesting Britain give him diplomatic status and immunity, but his request was refused.