Britain and Ecuador had a “perfectly normal working relationship” until Assange strode into the Ecuadoran Embassy last June, said Victor Bulmer-Thomas, a Latin America expert at Chatham House, a London-based think tank. He said that relations are now “correct, but not warm,” and that the most likely resolution would be an arrangement “that would allow Ecuador to save face,” such as Britain offering assurances via Sweden that Assange would not be deported to the United States.
Assange remains a polarizing figure, and some former allies have pulled their support, notably journalist Jemima Khan, who wrote a cover article in New Statesmen magazine this year explaining why her views have shifted from “admiration to demoralisation.”
“Assange’s noble cause and his wish to avoid a U.S. court does not trump their [the two Swedish women who have accused Assange of sexual assault] right to be heard in a Swedish court,” she wrote.
Other high-profile supporters, including Lady Gaga and Oliver Stone, have visited Assange in the embassy and tweeted photos of themselves posing with the silver-haired activist.
In an interview aired over the weekend on al-Jazeera, Assange said he will be “reasonably surprised” if the impasse at the embassy is not resolved within two years. He added that he will willingly go to Stockholm if he receives a guarantee that he will not be handed over to the United States.
“Theoretically, it could go on and on,” said Rebecca Hill, a London-based extradition expert. “I can’t imagine Swedish authorities withdrawing their request, and similarly I can’t imagine a circumstance which our courts will review the order of extradition. So really, it has to come down to him and how long he can tolerate it.”
Although Monday’s talks left many wondering what will happen next, Assange’s supporters say the WikiLeaks founder is as robust as ever.
He “is perfectly capable of running his organization from the Ecuadoran Embassy,” said Vaughan Smith, a restaurateur and friend of Assange’s. “It’s pretty tough not getting any sunshine for a year, but I think he’s a tough chap.”