January 9, 2018 / 8:32 PM / 6 months ago

Ecuador says exploring mediation to solve Assange standoff

QUITO (Reuters) - Ecuador said on Tuesday it was exploring mediation to solve the standoff over WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been holed up in Ecuador’s Embassy in London for five years, and called for cooperation from the United Kingdom and the international community.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is seen on the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, Britain, May 19, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

Former leftist President Rafael Correa, who had said Assange was a “journalist,” granted him asylum in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over rape allegations.

The Andean country’s new government, however, has said it is concerned over Assange’s “complicated” situation. President Lenin Moreno has described Assange as a “hacker,” while stressing he would not be kicked out of the embassy.

“We’re considering, exploring the possibility of a mediation,” Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa told foreign reporters on Tuesday, adding that a third country or person could lead a potential mediation.

“No solution can be reached without international cooperation and without cooperation from the United Kingdom, which in addition has shown interest in finding a solution.”

Further details were not immediately available.

In May, Sweden dropped the investigation into rape allegations that led Assange to seek asylum in the embassy in 2012, but British police said he would still be arrested if he left the building.

Assange, who denies the rape allegations, fears being handed over to the United States to face prosecution over WikiLeaks’ publication of thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents in one of the largest information leaks in U.S. history.

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Writing by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Richard Chang

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