Greece and the UK have agreed to hold talks on the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece, UNESCO announced.
A report from the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in case of Illicit Appropriation (ICPRCP) says that Greek Minister of Culture, Lina Mendoni and the Minister of the United Kingdom Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Lord Parkinson have agreed to meet “in due course.”
The news has come on the eve of International Museum Day, celebrated on May 18, 2022 as the ICPRCP opens its 23rd session in Paris.
The UNESCO committee has been examining the case of the Parthenon Marbles since 1984. On many occasions, UNESCO reiterated its readiness to act as a facilitator between Greece and the UK in this regard.
The 22nd session of the ICPRCP in September 2021 adopted a recommendation calling upon Greece and the United Kingdom to “intensify their efforts to reach a satisfactory settlement of this long-standing issue, taking into account its historical, cultural, legal, and ethical dimension.”
It also called on the Director-General to “assist in convening the necessary meetings between Greece and the United Kingdom with a view to reaching a mutually acceptable solution on this issue.”
A decision was adopted during the same session, which, among others, “calls on the United Kingdom to reconsider its stand and proceed to a bona fide dialogue with Greece on the matter[of the Parthenon Sculptures].”
ICPRCP says it sent two letters to the United Kingdom and Greece in March 2022 requesting information and proposing to facilitate dialogue.
Parthenon Marbles formal talks between Greece-UK culture ministers
The United Kingdom and Greece responded on April 8, 2022 and April 18, 2022 respectively, describing the actions undertaken to pursue the dialogue on this case.
In this regard, both Member States mentioned the bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in London in November 2021.
Johnson reiterated the United Kingdom’s long-standing position that this issue remains one for the Trustees of the British Museum. He has insisted they were “legally acquired” and are rightfully owned by the British Museum whereas Greece argues they were “stolen” from Athens by British nobleman Lord Elgin.
In April, the United Kingdom informed the Secretariat of its suggestion to organize a meeting, which they hoped would be well-received by Greek authorities, between the Greek Minister of Culture, Lina Mendoni, and Lord Parkinson, the minister of the United Kingdom’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
In this regard, Greece informed the Secretariat that the United Kingdom’s suggestion, which was sent to the Greek Minister of Culture on April 29, 2022, was immediately accepted and a meeting between the parties is about to be arranged in due course, ICPRCP says.