Ecuador says mediation with Britain over Assange has failed

A flag flies outside Ecuador's embassy in London, Britain, February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

QUITO (Reuters) - Ecuador blamed Britain on Friday for upending its efforts to mediate a solution for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who has lived in the Ecuadorean embassy in London since June 2012 to avoid extradition.

Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa said Ecuador had hoped to forge an agreement with Britain on Australian-born Assange, who entered the embassy to avoid being sent to Sweden to face allegations of sex crimes, which he has denied.

“This has not prospered because to mediate, two parties are needed. Ecuador is willing but the other party is not,” she told reporters.

Last week, a British judge refused to halt legal proceedings against Assange, 46. The Swedish case was dropped in May last year, but Britain still has a warrant out for Assange’s arrest over his breach of bail terms.

Fernanda Espinosa said Ecuador shared Assange’s fears that he could be extradited to the United States if he left the embassy, given that he has published U.S. diplomatic and military secrets on WikiLeaks, an organization that makes public secret information or news leaks provided by anonymous sources.

Ecuador will continue to provide shelter to Assange while he remains under threat and keep searching for ways to resolve the debacle, she said.

There is no public record or evidence demonstrating that any U.S. criminal charges are pending against Assange, but he and his supporters believe U.S. prosecutors could have a sealed, and therefore secret, indictment against him.

A U.S. government official told Reuters last week that federal prosecutors were still pursuing a criminal investigation against WikiLeaks. [nL8N1Q34YU]

Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Editing by Bernadette Baum