UK’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has vowed to protect the Parthenon Marbles from being sent back to Greece, saying they remain a “huge asset” to the UK, the Guardian reports on Monday.
Despite a campaign to return the marble sculptures to Athens, and talks between officials in the UK and Greece about the idea, it was given short shrift by Sunak as he headed to a major defense and security summit in California.
“The UK has cared for the Elgin marbles for generations,” Sunak said, according to the Guardian. “Our galleries and museums are funded by taxpayers because they are a huge asset to this country.
“We share their treasures with the world, and the world comes to the UK to see them. The collection of the British Museum is protected by law, and we have no plans to change it.”
While decisions about the care and management of specific collections are treated as a matter for the British Museum, Downing Street believes that a long-term loan would not be in the spirit of the government’s position, the British newspaper reports.
Talks between the UK and Greece on the Parthenon Marbles
The Parthenon Marbles have been displayed in the British Museum since 1832 after being stripped from the Parthenon by Lord Elgin, a British diplomat.
Secret talks between the museum’s chair, George Osborne, and the Greek government have been ongoing for more than a year.
Despite the cautious optimism expressed by Greece, the fact remains that the UK is dashing hopes for a return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece.
Recently, Michelle Donelan, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said that the sculptures “belong here in the UK” and should not be returned to Greece.
In a wide-ranging interview with the BBC, she said sending the sculptures to Greece would “open a can of worms” and be a “dangerous road to go down.”
However, the decision by the Vatican to return three fragments of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece has added further pressure on the British Museum.
The fragments are expected to arrive in Athens later this month, with a March 24 ceremony planned to receive them.
The fragments of the Parthenon frieze depict the head of a horse, the head of a bearded man and the head of a boy.
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