Greece officially responded to press reports that a deal on the Parthenon Marbles with the UK is being finalized by implying that such a deal would only materialize if the British Museum acknowledges that the sculptures belong to Greece.
In a statement late on Thursday, the Ministry of Culture said, “We repeat, once again, our country’s firm position that it does not recognize the British Museum’s jurisdiction, possession and ownership of the Sculptures, as they are the product of theft.”
The statement makes it clear that Greece will not accept a deal that would be described as a loan, as several reports have suggested.
The British Museum confirmed on Wednesday for the first time that it is involved in “constructive discussions” with Greece over the return of some of the Parthenon Marbles.
The museum said in a statement, “We’ve said publicly we’re actively seeking a new Parthenon partnership with our friends in Greece and as we enter a new year constructive discussions are ongoing.”
As reports in the UK and elsewhere suggest that Athens and London are closing in on a deal on the Parthenon Marbles the director of the Acropolis Museum, Νikos Stampolidis, told daily Efsyn that he was not negotiating with anyone on the issue.
He described the Bloomberg report that the directors of the two museums were negotiating on the issue as “provocative.”
Earlier on Thursday, The Times reported that the Parthenon Marbles long held at the British Museum in London could be “homeward bound.”
The British paper is reporting “signs” that the museum’s director George Osborne may be close to announcing a compromise that will allow the sculptures to return to Athens as an open-ended loan. In exchange, it said, other exhibits stored in the Acropolis Museum will be given for “rather shorter loans.”
This proposal, according to the article, “would circumvent the obstacle presented by the fact that the trustees of the British Museum own the friezes and are prevented by law from giving them away.”
The Times noted that “congratulations are due to George Osborne” for his readiness to agree on the deal, which it said has already been drawn up.
Public opinion in Britain is in favor of returning the sculptures to Greece, though there are still conservative voices on the board of the British Museum that strongly resist the idea, the newspaper says.
It also notes the change in its own position on the issue from a year earlier in an article published on January 11, 2022, when it wrote:
For more than 50 years, artists and politicians have argued that artifacts so fundamental to a nation’s cultural identity should return to Greece. The museum and the British government, supported by The Times, have resisted the pressure. But times and circumstances change. The sculptures belong in Athens. They should now return.
“Constructive discussions” with Greece over the return of the Parthenon Marbles
On Tuesday Bloomberg and the Daily Telegraph reported that the Parthenon Marbles could soon be returned to Greece under a “long-term loan” agreement.
According to Bloomberg, which stresses that the deal hasn’t been sealed, an agreement would see a proportion of the marbles sent to Athens on rotation over several years.
In exchange, other objects would effectively be loaned to the museum in London, and Britain could also get plaster copies of the originals.
Sources told the Daily Telegraph that the loan agreement could be solidified “sooner rather than later,” but the prized sculptures would still ultimately remain under the ownership of the British Museum.