Ecuador’s president has invited the UK to talks over the fate of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on the condition that Britain guarantee it will not enter the diplomatic mission in London where Assange has sought shelter.
Computer hacker Assange, who is wanted by Sweden for questioning on sexual assault charges, jumped bail and fled to the Ecuadorian embassy nine weeks ago.
“Despite that rude, impertinent and unacceptable remark, we’re still open to dialogue,” President Rafael Correa said on Tuesday, referring to a statement issued by William Hague, UK foreign secretary, last week.
“We don’t expect an apology, but of course we expect Britain to retract the extremely serious mistake they made when they issued the threat that they could violate our diplomatic mission to arrest Mr Julian Assange.”
Correa has rallied support for his decision among fellow left-leaning Latin American nations and has characterised the diplomatic row with the UK as a confrontation with an “imperialist” and “colonial” power.
Though Correa has fought with privately owned media outlets in his own country, hundreds of people rallied in the Ecuadorian capital, Quito, earlier this week to support Assange’s asylum bid, saying it was crucial to protect free speech.
The British government has also said it will not raid Ecuador’s embassy, though police are stationed both outside and inside the building that houses the embassy offices.
“We will not allow Mr Assange safe passage out of the UK, nor is there any legal basis for us to do so. The UK does not accept the principle of diplomatic asylum,” Hague said in a statement on Thursday.
“It is far from a universally accepted concept: the United Kingdom is not a party to any legal instruments which require us to recognise the grant of diplomatic asylum by a foreign embassy in this country.”