British police have removed its officers from outside the Ecuadorean embassy where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been holed up since June 2012, but say they will still do their best to arrest him.
Police said Monday 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.”
The 24-hour operation has been controversial in part because it is so costly. London’s Metropolitan Police says the operation cost 11.1 million pounds ($17.6 million) through April 2015.
The police force said in a statement that Assange is still subject to arrest for jumping bail and holing up in the embassy while wanted for questioning over sexual assault allegations in Sweden. It said if he leaves the embassy, the force will “deploy a number of overt and covert tactics to arrest him.”
In August, Swedish prosecutors dropped cases of alleged sexual misconduct against the 44-year-old, but still want to question him about accusations of rape made after his visit to the country in 2010.
Assange denies all the allegations and believes extradition to Sweden is merely the first step in efforts to bring him to the US over WikiLeaks’ secret-spilling activities.
Swedish officials say they have held talks with Ecuador about questioning Assange at the embassy in London.
Earlier this year, Metropolitan Police chief Bernard Hogan-Howe said the force was reviewing the Assange operation because it was “sucking our resources.”