William Hague seeks renewed talks with Ecuador over Julian Assange

WILLIAM Hague wants to resume talks with Ecuador over the fate of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange “as early as possible”.

• Julian Assange has been at Ecuador embassy since June 19

• WikiLeaks founder wanted in Sweden over alleged sexual offences

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The Foreign Secretary said he still thinks a diplomatic solution is possible.

He told MPs that the situation was “a matter of regret”.

The South American country has granted asylum to Assange, but he remains holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

He faces extradition to Sweden over alleged sexual offences. He could be detained as soon as he sets foot outside the building in Knightsbridge.

Assange said recently in an interview that he thinks it would take between six and 12 months for the issue to be resolved.

Mr Hague said last week that “a solution is not in sight” to the row which has strained diplomatic relations with the South American country.

But in a written statement to the Commons, Mr Hague expressed hope that progress could be made through renewed talks.

There had already been seven formal discussions as well as “many other conversations and written exchanges” it the search for a solution, he told MPs.

Any suggestion that extradition to Sweden posed a risk to Assange’s human rights was “completely unfounded” and had been “comprehensively rejected” by UK courts, he pointed out.

Quite apart from international obligations, the UK had “complete confidence in the independence and fairness of the Swedish judicial system”, he said.

Ecuador has also been assured that fears Assange could be extradited on to the US from Sweden and face the death penalty were “without foundation”, Mr Hague noted.

And he said again that the UK was not “threatening” the Ecuadorian embassy and would fully abide by the 1961 Vienna Convention.

Ecuador claimed that Britain threatened to storm its embassy after Foreign Office officials highlighted available powers to enter the building and make the arrest.

“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,” Mr Hague said.

“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.”