British police on Monday removed a round-the-clock guard from outside the Ecuadorean Embassy hideout of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, saying it wasn’t “proportionate” to keep up the operation when no end to the three-year stalemate is in sight.
The Metropolitan Police said the force would still do its best to arrest Assange, who sought refuge at the London embassy in June 2012 while facing extradition to Sweden.
The force said that because there is “no imminent prospect of a diplomatic or legal resolution to this issue,” a round-the-clock police presence is “no longer proportionate.”
Ecuador has granted Assange political asylum, but he faces arrest if he leaves the embassy. No police were visible outside the upscale Edwardian apartment block that holds the embassy on Monday afternoon — just journalists and a pizza delivery man with a box addressed to Assange.
The head of Britain’s diplomatic service, Simon McDonald, summoned Ecuador’s ambassador to the Foreign Office on Monday to express “deep frustration” at the lack of progress in resolving the standoff.
The 24-hour police operation has been controversial in part because it is so costly. Police say the operation cost 11.1 million pounds ($17.6 million) through April 2015.