The diplomatic stand-off over Julian Assange shows no sign of abating, as the Ecuadorian foreign minister says the WikiLeaks founder is prepared to stay in Ecuador’s London embassy for five years.
Ricardo Patino, the Ecuadorian foreign minister, met British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Monday to try and break the deadlock over Julian Assange‘s future.
Mr Assange has been inside the Ecuadorian embassy, in London’s Knightsbridge area, for almost a year.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said there had been “no breakthrough” in the talks between Mr Hague and Mr Patino, though the two men had agreed to keep communication channels open.
They also agreed to set up a group of legal experts to try and find a diplomatic solution to the “issue of Mr Assange”.
An FCO spokesperson said: “Ministers agreed that officials should establish a working group to find a diplomatic solution to the issue of Julian Assange, but no substantive progress was made.
“The foreign secretary was clear once again that any resolution would need to be within the laws of the United Kingdom.”
In a press conference, Mr Patino said that the Ecuadorian government was prepared to continue to allow Mr Assange to remain at the embassy, following the decision last year to grant him political asylum.
Mr Assange has rarely appeared in public since, though he did speak from his balcony in December to deliver a Christmas address.
Mr Patino said that Mr Assange was prepared to stay inside the embassy for five years, because this was preferable to facing the US legal system.
He made it clear that Mr Assange would not be smuggled out of the embassy in the boot of a car, saying he should be allowed to leave and go to Ecuador.
On Sunday Mr Patino met Mr Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy (video, below), where Mr Assange said his situation was “especially difficult”, but that the staff at the embassy had been very kind to him.
Mr Assange fears that if he leaves the embassy for Sweden, to face charges that he sexually assaulted two women, then he will be extradited to the US to face charges over leaked military secrets that were published by Wikileaks.