Ecuadorian foreign minister talks about Assange, Snowden

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Ecuadorian foreign minister talks about Assange, Snowden

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Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said his government will responsibly examine an asylum request from fugitive former U.S. intelligence agency worker Edward Snowden during his visit to Seoul last Friday. Provided by SeoulEye

On a visit to Seoul last week, Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino talked about the recent impasse with the British government over Julian Assange’s asylum bid.

In Seoul and in a followup message on Twitter, Patino discussed how his country will respond to any asylum request from fugitive U.S. whistle-blower Edward Snowden.

“If we receive an asylum request from Edward Snowden, Ecuador will review his request ‘with responsibility’ as we did when Julian Assange sought asylum [with Ecuador],” the foreign minister said Friday.

The former U.S. spy agency contractor’s asylum bid was not certain when Patino held a press conference in western Seoul Friday but the Ecuadorian official confirmed his request on Monday via his Twitter account.

“The Government of Ecuador has received an asylum request from Edward J. Snowden,” his tweet read. After four days in Korea, Patino went on to Vietnam.

The Seoul visit, which ended Friday, came after Partino met with British Foreign Secretary William Hague and the WikiLeaks founder in London early last week.

Although the envoy allotted a fair amount of time at the press conference to questions about Assange and Snowden, the main focus of the visit was negotiations on a free trade agreement.

Patino said Korea and Ecuador completed a feasibility study to begin free trade talks. He also held talks with Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and leading business executives.

“We hope that negotiations with Korea for a free trade agreement will begin in the near future,” he said. “The two countries wrapped up the feasibility study a week ago and we are waiting for the Korean government’s decision to proceed.”

Patino visited Daedeok Science Town in Daejeon during his visit to seek cooperation on a similar project, the Yachay city of knowledge, in Ecuador, meeting president of the Innopolis Foundation Lee Jae-goo and high-ranking officials from the Korea Research Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology.

A memorandum between Daedok Innopolis and Yachay will be signed for the development of the second phase of the Ecuadorian tech center.

The foreign minister met a number of business executives from Korean Air, Samsung, Hyundai Group and Boryung Pharmaceutical.

“I had an opportunity to meet different executives and had time to find mutual interests,” he said, adding that Korean Air is considering launching a new route to Ecuador.

Ecuador’s top diplomat explained in detail why the Ecuadorian government has sheltered Julian Assange.

The Australian whistle-blower has been staying inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London for one year to avoid extradition to Sweden.

He is wanted there for questioning over allegations by two women of sexual offenses - which he denies - and will be arrested if he leaves the building.

“The Ecuadorian government accepted Assange’s asylum request, taking into consideration international laws and on humanitarian grounds,” Patino said.

“The British government cites different legal justifications from Ecuador but we need to keep in mind there is law above regional justice systems which is international human rights law,” the foreign minister said.

Patino stressed that Ecuador believes in the protection of basic individual human rights.

“Ecuador has an obligation to protect his life, as well as his personal integrity, and the United Kingdom has an obligation to provide him with safe passage,” said Patino, adding that his country valued fundamental principles and responsibilities.

He compared the granting of asylum to protecting David fighting against Goliath.

“We need to support a David who confronts Goliath,” he said.

BY PARK EUN-JEE [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]
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