"What naturalization does is give an additional layer of protection to the asylee", Ms Espinosa said.
Assange, who is Australian, first sought refuge at the embassy more than five years ago to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faced an investigation over rape allegations. Even Swedish prosecutors, who have dropped charges for the time being, said that if Assange leaves the embassy they'd like to talk with him about the sexual assault charges.
Britain said it had rejected a request for diplomatic status for Assange, after he was given a passport by Ecuador.
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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's name has appeared in an Ecuadorian government database of citizen identification numbers, fuelling speculation that he may have received citizenship from the Andean country. "There are well-founded fears we have about possible risks to his life and integrity, not necessarily by the United Kingdom but by third party states".
An FCO spokesperson, confirming the latest attempt to resolve the impasse, said on Wednesday night: "The government of Ecuador recently requested diplomatic status for Mr Assange here in the UK". The US did not confirm whether it would request his extradition if he were arrested in the UK.
Ecuador's announcement came after several days of speculation that the Ecuadorean government was ramping up efforts to find a solution for Assange. "No solution can be reached without global cooperation and without cooperation from the United Kingdom, which in addition has shown interest in finding a solution". She said the decision to grant citizenship to Assange had been made after careful consideration of Ecuador's obligations under its Constitution and under global law. But this week has been a confusing one for the WikiLeaks founder, as rumours have swirled about him possibly leaving the embassy whether he wanted to or not.
A United Nations panel concluded in 2016 that Assange was under arbitrary detention.