British Foreign Secretary William Hague is urging Ecuador to resume talks over the case of Julian Assange "as soon as possible." Hague stresses that a diplomatic solution to the dispute should be possible.
Assange has been holed up at the Ecuadorian embassy in London for just over two months, after asking for, and finally receiving, political asylum in Ecuador.
He was to be extradited by the U.K. government to Sweden for questioning on sex-related crimes, which he denies, and it was feared he would then be sent on to the U.S. on espionage charges relating to the diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, which have angered and embarrassed the U.S. government.
However, despite receiving asylum from Ecuador, Assange cannot leave the country to travel to Ecuador, as the U.K. will not grant him safe passage and will arrest him should he step outside of the embassy.
In a statement on Monday, speaking on the matter of discussions with Ecuador and the country's granting of diplomatic asylum to Assange, Hague said, "It is a matter of regret that instead of continuing our discussions, the Foreign Minister of Ecuador announced on August 16 that Ecuador had decided to grant diplomatic asylum."
"We wish to continue our dialogue with the government of Ecuador. We believe that our two countries should be able to find a diplomatic solution. We have invited the government of Ecuador to resume, as early as possible, the discussions we have held on this matter to date."
"I confirmed that in a meeting with Ecuador's Vice President Moreno on August 29 in London, during his visit to the Paralympics. We continue also to discuss the matter with the Swedish authorities, which retain an interest in the completion of Mr Assange's extradition proceedings."
Over concerns that Assange could face further extradition from Sweden to the U.S., Hague said Sweden would be obliged to seek Britain's consent before granting any extradition to a non-EU member.
"This means that the United Kingdom could only consent to Mr Assange's onward extradition from Sweden to a third country if satisfied that extradition would be compatible with his human rights, and that there was no prospect of a death sentence being imposed or carried out," he said.
"Our consent may only be given in accordance with the international conventions by which the U.K. is bound," he added.
Over Ecuador's concern about a breach to Assange's human rights, Hague said, "The suggestion that there would be a risk of a breach of Mr Assange's human rights on extradition to Sweden is completely unfounded."
"The suggestion that Mr Assange's human rights would be put at risk by the possibility of onward extradition from Sweden to a third country is also without foundation," he added.
The current standoff between the U.K. and Ecuador reached a crisis point, when the U.K. threatened to raid the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to arrest Assange. This caused a diplomatic scandal, which outraged the Ecuadorian government and caused various emergency meetings of Latin American regional organizations.
The U.K. later withdrew the threat which eased tensions for the most part and on Monday, Hague once again reassured Ecuador that the U.K. has no intention of violating its diplomatic premises.
"I have been consistently clear that we are not threatening the embassy of Ecuador," Hague said.
During an interview with Ecuador's Gama television network last week, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said that the diplomatic impasse with the U.K. should be resolved within six months to a year.
Correa also stated in an exclusive interview with RT News, that “once we granted asylum to Assange, he is under the protection of Ecuador, and we will do everything to make sure this protection is effective.”