Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis was disappointed by his British counterpart, Rishi Sunak, who canceled their scheduled meeting in London, apparently over the Greek PM’s comments on the Parthenon Marbles.
“I express my annoyance at the fact that the British Prime Minister canceled our scheduled meeting just hours before it was due to take place,” Mitsotakis said. “Greece and Britain are united by traditional ties of friendship and the framework of our bilateral relations is extremely broad.
“Greece’s positions on the issue of the Parthenon Sculptures are well known,” he added. “I was hoping to have the opportunity to discuss them with my British counterpart as well, along with the major challenges of the international moment: Gaza, Ukraine, the Climate crisis, and migration.”
“Anyone who believes in the correctness and justice of their positions is never afraid of confronting arguments,” the Greek PM added.
Sunak unwilling to return Parthenon Marbles to Greece
Earlier on Monday, a Downing Street spokesman said that Sunak is unwilling to consider returning the Parthenon Marbles from the British Museum to Greece.
Sunak’s spokesman told reporters, “We have a long-standing position, [and] I think the Prime Minister’s on the record that the Parthenon Sculptures in the British Museum were legally acquired under the laws at the time. They’re legally owned by the trustees of the British Museum.”
“We fully support this position, [and] indeed the British Museum Act prohibits the removal of objects from the museum’s collection,” the spokesman said. “We have no plans to change the law.”
The official said the PM has been “robust” in his view that the marbles are a “significant asset” to the UK, who Sunak says has “safeguarded” the treasures.
Mitsotakis vs Sunak on Parthenon Marbles
Mitsotakis made the case for the “reunification” 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 British official on Monday rejected Mitsotakis’ likening of the British Museum’s possession of the Parthenon Marbles to the Mona Lisa painting being cut in half. Asked if Sunak recognizes that characterization, his spokesman said, “Obviously it’s not something we would agree with.
“These were legally acquired at the time, they’re legally owned by the trustees of the museum,” it was said. “We support that position and there’s no plan to change the law which governs it.”
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 nineteenth century.
The British Museum has entered talks with Greece to discuss the fate of the antiquities. Talks have been “constructive,” according to the British Museum.
British Museum chair George Osborne has proposed a loan deal whereby the works of art would be sent to the Acropolis Museum in Athens and, in return, Greek treasures would be sent over.
Over time, different sections of the sculpture would be put on display in Greece, though they would not be displayed all together.