The UK and Sweden have criticised Ecuador for granting political asylum to Julian Assange as the diplomatic row over what to do with him intensifies.
The Wikileaks founder took refuge at Ecuador’s London embassy in June as he faced extradition to Sweden over sexual assault claims, which he denies.
The UK has said it will not allow him safe passage out of the country.
Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said he hoped talks with the UK would “overcome this”.
He told BBC Mundo the UK should respect Ecuador’s “sovereign decision” otherwise “we will use the alternatives under international law to demand the safe passage”.
“We don’t think it is reasonable that, after a sovereign government has made the decision of granting political asylum, a citizen is forced to live in an embassy for a long period,” he added.
Mr Patino also claimed “other elements” were motivating Sweden’s wish to extradite Mr Assange, and also tweeted his “sincere appreciation” to the national assembly in Ecuador which passed a resolution condemning the “threat” to Mr Assange’s political asylum.
Ecuador says Mr Assange’s human rights might be violated if he is sent to Sweden to be questioned over allegations that he sexually assaulted two female ex-Wikileaks volunteers while he was in Stockholm to give a lecture in 2010.
The Wikileaks website has published a mass of leaked diplomatic cables that embarrassed several countries, particularly the US.
The 41-year-old Australian citizen, who claims the sexual contact was consensual, says the allegations against him are politically motivated and he fears that, if extradited to Sweden, he will then be passed on to US authorities.
The Swedish foreign ministry has categorically rejected Ecuadorean claims that the sexual assault allegations facing the Wikileaks founder are not the real reason the country wants him extradited.
Officials in Stockholm told the BBC that they wanted to guarantee that the allegations could be investigated. They denied any other motive.
Mr Assange said that while Ecuador’s decision was “a historic victory, our struggles have just begun”, adding that “the unprecedented US investigation against Wikileaks must be stopped”.
The UK Foreign Office says it remains committed to reaching a “negotiated solution” but following its obligations under the Extradition Act, it would arrest Mr Assange if he left the embassy.
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said there was “no legal basis” to allow Mr Assange safe passage out of the country and warned that the case could go on for a “considerable” time.
In a statement issued after the Ecuadorean decision, Mr Hague said: “With Mr Assange having exhausted all options of appeal, the British authorities are under a binding obligation to extradite him to Sweden…
“It is important to understand that this is not about Mr Assange’s activities at Wikileaks or the attitude of the United States of America. He is wanted in Sweden to answer allegations of serious sexual offences.”
Ecuador had described as a “threat” a UK letter that drew attention to the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987, which would enable it to potentially lift the embassy’s diplomatic status to allow police to enter the building to arrest Mr Assange for breaching his bail terms.
However, the Foreign Office later said the letter’s purpose was intended to clarify “all aspects of British law that Ecuador should be aware of” and it favoured a “mutually acceptable solution”.
Meanwhile, an extraordinary meeting of Ecuador’s national assembly has been held to discuss the situation.
The BBC’s correspondent in Ecuador, Will Grant, said that opponents of President Rafael Correa feel the diplomatic spat with Britain is unnecessary and Ecuador had no right to get involved.
Our correspondent adds that some critics have also suggested that Mr Correa’s actions in defending the free speech of Mr Assange are ironic, as he has been criticised for clamping down on media dissent in Ecuador.
In Sweden, foreign ministry spokesman Anders Joerle said it was “unacceptable that Ecuador would want to halt the Swedish judicial process and European judicial co-operation”.
He added that Sweden “emphatically reject the gross accusations that is made against the Swedish judicial system”.
Claes Brogstrom, the lawyer for the two Swedish women making the sexual assault complaints against Assange, said their ordeal seemed to have been overlooked by Mr Assange’s supporters.
He insisted that the charges against Mr Assange would be treated as a “normal case” in the Swedish judicial system.
“He will be interrogated by the prosecutor. The prosecutor after that has to decide whether to prosecute him or not and if that happens there will be a trial in the court of Stockholm.
“There’s no demand from the United States that he should be extradited to the US,” Mr Brogstrom added.
The Organisation of American States called a special meeting at its Washington headquarters on Thursday to discuss the Ecuador-UK relationship, specifically Ecuador’s diplomatic premises in the UK.
And the Union of South American Nations – which consists of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Surinam and Uruguay – has convened an “extraordinary meeting” in Ecuador on Sunday to consider “the situation raised at the embassy”.