Greece will seek to strike an agreement with new British Prime Minister Liz Truss over the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Athens, PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in an interview published Sunday with The Sunday Times.
“At a time when Truss will be looking to build her credibility and when the UK is sort of cornered in terms of its overall image after the [Queen’s] funeral it will be a fantastic gesture, and that’s what I’ll tell her,” said Mitsotakis to The Times‘ Matthew Campbell.
The Prime Minister shared his belief that King Charles, with whom he purportedly has a good personal relationship, will have to remain neutral on the issue due to his position. However, King Charles is supportive of the initiative to re-unite the Parthenon Marbles.
Mitsotakis stated that this belief is based on discussions held between the two men when Charles was Prince of Wales and noted that sentiment in the United Kingdom is shifting.
Ownership of the sculptures, part of a spectacular frieze, has been a source of rancor between Britain and Greece ever since Lord Elgin removed them from the Parthenon in 1801, claiming to have permission from occupying Ottoman authorities.
Decision on Parthenon Marbles “up to the British Museum”
In his last meeting with former British PM Boris Johnson in November 2021 in London, Mitsotakis urged Britain to return the Parthenon Marbles.
Appealing to Johnson’s background as a classicist, Mitsotakis told him he was “a true philhellene” while insisting the Greek government did not consider the marbles question to be a “footnote” that could be forgotten or overlooked.
However, Johnson replied that the issue of the Parthenon Marbles is a matter for the British Museum and its trustees.
“The Prime Minister said that he understood the strength of feeling of the Greek people on this issue but reiterated the UK’s longstanding position that this matter is one for the trustees of the British Museum,” a Downing Street spokesperson said after the meeting.
“The leaders agreed that this issue in no way affects the strength of the UK-Greece partnership,” the spokesperson said.
It is not clear whether the new British PM Liz Truss has a different view on the subject from her predecessor.
In July, the mayor of London called on the British Museum, the UK government, and the Greek government to “make progress” on a deal for the sharing of the Parthenon Marbles.
“I’d really encourage the British Museum, the British government and the government of Greece, and the relevant appropriate place—the museum in Athens—to talk about how we can make progress on this issue,” Mayor Sadiq Khan told the Huffington Post.
“There’s a discussion, not just in terms of the Elgin Marbles, but across the globe in relation to some of the wonderful things we have on exhibition in our city,” he added.
Greece has intensified its campaign for the return of the Parthenon Marbles, a struggle that began in the 1980s by then Minister of Culture Melina Mercouri. A recent poll in Britain shows that the majority of Britons is in favor of their repatriation to their home.