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Greek PM Parallels Parthenon Sculptures to Cutting Mona Lisa in Half

Prime Minister Mitsotakis gives an interview to Laura Kuessnberg on BBC.
The Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, made the case for the “reunificiation” of the Parthenon sculptures in a BBC interview with Laura Kuenssberg on Sunday morning. Credit: Prime Minister’s Office

The Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, made the case for the “reunificiation” of the Parthenon sculptures in a BBC interview on Sunday morning by comparing the issue to hypothetically cutting Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa in two halves and exhibiting each in different museums.

The Parthenon sculptures, also known as the Elgin Marbles, have been at the heart of a dispute between Greece and the United Kingdom since the largest part of the historically significant artifacts were taken from Athens to London by a British diplomat in the early 19th century.

All together, the sculptures form the Parthenon frieze, a continuous band with scenes in relief that encircles the upper part of the cella within the outer colonnade of what was the temple of the goddess Athena in classical Athens.

The Greek state has long advocated the reunification of the sculptures of the frieze under one roof, in their homeland, Greece, as currently 50 meters of the band are exhibited at the Acropolis museum in Athens, and another 75 meters (247 feet) at the British Museum in London.

Reunification of the monumental sculptures of the Parthenon frieze

“This is not a matter of returning artifacts whose ownership we question. We feel that these sculptures belong to Greece and that they were essentially stolen. But this is not, in my mind, an ownership question. This is a reunification argument,” Mitsotakis told BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg on the BBC’s flagship Sunday morning politics show.

“If I told you that you would cut the Mona Lisa in half and you would have half of it at the Louvre and half of it at the British Museum. Do you think your viewers would appreciate the beauty of the painting in such a way? Well, this is exactly what happened with the Parthenon Sculptures,” the Greek Prime Minister continued.

Mitsotakis admitted that there hasn’t been as much progress made as he would like in the negotiations.

Answering Kuessnberg’s questions about UK opposition leader Keir Starmer’s rumored intention to return the sculptures to Greece, the Greek Premier suggested that the topic would be discussed in his scheduled meetings with both Starmer and the UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak: “I will meet both Keir Starmer and, of course, the Prime Minister tomorrow. And maybe I can let you know afterwards,” Mitsotakis concluded.

Migration policies on the continent and the deadly Pylos shipwreck

The BBC journalist also had a lengthy discussion with Mitsotakis about migration policies in Greece, UK and Europe, and eventually asked the Greek leader about the concerns raised by the Council of Europe about the deadly shipwreck off Pylos last summer and the way the incident was handled by the Greek authorities.

“The BBC has verified some footage that shows that the Coast Guard filmed the boat foundering at sea during the time that the authorities claim it wasn’t in need of rescue,” Kuenssberg pointed out.

Mitsotakis is in London on a three-day working visit.

On Monday morning, he will attend the Greek investment roadshow organized by Morgan Stanley and the Athens Stock Exchange, and in the afternoon he will meet UK opposition leader Keir Starmer.

He will later address a Greek embassy event in the ambassadorial residence, related to the office where diplomat and Nobel poet laureate George Seferis (1900-1971) worked.

On Tuesday, the Greek Prime Minister will meet his British counterpart Rishi Sunak at Downing Street for an overall review of Greek-British relations and an exchange of views on issues of regional and international interest, sources told AMNA.

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