Two months after his inauguration as chancellor, José Valencia says that the asylum granted to Julian Assange has not affected Ecuador’s relations with Great Britain (GB) or with the United States (USA). With the first, the relationship is ‘fluid’ and with the second one works on an agenda with tentative dates for various topics. Regarding relations with Colombia, Valencia maintains that there is a lot of optimism and, even, the binational cabinet would move forward to November.
The US Senate would have asked Assange for an interview about the meddling in the 2016 elections. What do you think of this?
What concerns Ecuador regarding the case of Assange is what refers to his asylum status. The matters that concern his judicial relationship with the British Government or other states fall within the scope of the decisions that he and his lawyers must make.
Can he speak from the Embassy? Attend the order by a technological means?
According to international law and the conventions that regulate asylum, a person who is isolated cannot make pronouncements that affect the relationship of Ecuador with other countries or that these mean an interference in the internal situations of others. If it does not interfere (in the politics and sovereignty of other countries could).
Has asylum to Assange affected relations with GB or the USA?
The international agenda concerning Ecuador and Great Britain includes political, cooperation, commercial, investment, etc. topics. And the issue of Mr. Assange is a matter of bilateral relationship that flows.
Flowing. Does that mean there is no hostility from Britain?
No, there is no hostility, at some point we can have divergent opinions: application for safe-conduct in 2012 and request for asylum in 2017, the two were not attended by the United Kingdom, but the relationship flows. Of course, we maintain the position that in the conversation Mr. Assange and his lawyers have to participate in what concerns them.
And with the United States?
No. It’s a three-part affair: Ecuador, GB and Assange and their lawyers.
Does the advisory opinion of the Inter-American Court on asylum support the actions of Ecuador?
The opinion of the Court will be one of the elements that will be taken into consideration in the case of a discussion or the search for a way out regarding this issue.
Have you thought about withdrawing the asylum?
This is a question of special legal complexity that must be resolved, it is impossible to set a deadline, hopefully as soon as possible. Six years for a person to be confined in an office building that does not have the conditions for housing is very difficult and, of course, our officials work there, for them it must also be complex.
Do you know how much Ecuador spends on the maintenance of Assange at the Embassy?
I do not have a specific estimate. The expenses are necessary for Ecuador, as a country that grants asylum, to fulfill this obligation to keep the person asylum in the place that is.
How is the relationship with the United States going? The Minister of Defense mentioned that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will elaborate the protocol for the operation of the security cooperation office…
This office is a vehicle to facilitate cooperation on defense issues, cooperation that will always be governed by bilateral understandings and respectful of Ecuadorian law.
In how long will the protocol be ready?
I hope it will be in the shortest possible time because the issues concerning, for example, the northern border are really urgent and we need to make decisions in the national interest.
How did you perceive the environment in Colombia to work with the new authorities on the northern border?
The possession of the new Colombian president, Iván Duque, was a magnificent opportunity for President Lenín Moreno to converse with him. They were substantive meetings, where it was precisely agreed to maintain or reactivate the relationship with the new authorities, including, look for a way to not wait until February 2019 for the next binational cabinet, but to do it before, possibly in November of this year.
Will Ecuador ask Colombia to take more security measures on its side of the border?
Ecuador has greeted the expressions of the president of Colombia in the sense that it would increase the presence of the State in the places where there are problems of crime, drug trafficking, illegal crops. We are optimistic, there is a good dialogue with the new Government and we are going to look for that to crystallize with concrete measures..
“The opinion of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (regarding asylum to Julian Assange) will be one of the elements that will be taken into consideration in the case of a discussion or the search for a way out.” . (I)José Valencia, chancellor