Assange Trapped One Year After U.K. Talks With Ecuador Stall

The U.K. and Ecuador made no breakthrough today in talks on the impasse over WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as the fugitive anti-secrecy advocate marks one year holed up in the Andean country’s London embassy.

The U.K. Foreign Office said no “substantive progress” was made in the 45-minute meeting between Foreign Secretary William Hague and his Ecuadorian counterpart Ricardo Patino. Instead, the ministers agreed to establish a working group to find a “diplomatic solution” to the deadlock, the Foreign Office said.

Assange, an Australian national, sought asylum in Ecuador’s embassy in London on June 19 last year after exhausting options in U.K. courts to avert extradition to Sweden, where he faces questioning on allegations of rape and sexual molestation. Ecuador’s government wants British and Swedish guarantees they won’t allow him to be turned over to the U.S., where it says he could face torture and execution for publishing thousands of classified military and diplomatic cables through WikiLeaks.

“The Foreign Secretary was clear once again that any resolution would need to be within the laws of the United Kingdom,” the Foreign Office said.

The U.K. government said in August it has a “binding obligation” to extradite Assange to Sweden that it intends to fulfill. It said it doesn’t recognize the concept of diplomatic asylum granted by Ecuador and won’t allow the man safe passage out of Britain.

Patino, who spent about an hour with Assange last night at Ecuador’s embassy in Knightsbridge, said the South American country remains “firm” in its decision to continue sheltering him, according to an e-mailed statement from his office. Ecuador said in August it may seek arbitration from the International Court of Justice at The Hague.

“A conflict exists between the laws of both countries, which makes it necessary and fundamental to take into account international law, human rights and humanitarian rights,” Patino said in the statement. “It’s absolutely necessary to find a definitive solution and, together with the U.K., we want to explore new proposals that will allow us to advance.”

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