Newsdeck

Newsdeck

Britain’s Sunak cancels meeting with Greek PM in row over Parthenon sculptures

Britain’s Sunak cancels meeting with Greek PM in row over Parthenon sculptures
UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 06: A visitor passes part of the Elgin Marbles collection at the British Museum in London, Monday, February 6, 2006. For more than 20 years, Greek officials have demanded that the British Museum return sculptures taken from the Parthenon, a request repeatedly turned down by successive U.K. governments. That hasn't stopped Athens from building a 130 million euro ($155 million) facility to house the disputed treasures. (Photo by Graham Barclay/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

ATHENS/LONDON, Nov 27 (Reuters) - Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis accused his British counterpart Rishi Sunak of cancelling a scheduled meeting in London on Tuesday in a diplomatic row over the status of the Parthenon Sculptures.

By Renee Maltezou and Andrew MacAskill

Greece has repeatedly asked the British Museum to permanently return the 2,500-year-old sculptures that British diplomat Lord Elgin removed from the Parthenon temple in the early 19th century when he was ambassador to the Ottoman Empire.

“I express my annoyance that the British Prime Minister cancelled our planned meeting just hours before it was due to take place,” Mitsotakis said in a statement.

“Greece’s positions on the issue of the Parthenon Sculptures are well known. I had hoped to have the opportunity to discuss them with my British counterpart. Anyone who believes in the rightness and justice of his positions is never afraid of confronting arguments,” he said.

The Greek government has been in discussions with British Museum chair George Osborne on a possible loan deal for the sculptures, which have been a source of dispute between the two countries for centuries.

Mitsotakis complained in an interview with the BBC on Sunday that talks over a possible return of the sculptures to Athens were not advancing quickly enough.

He said that the continued presence of the sculptures in the British Museum was like cutting the “Mona Lisa in half” and it was not a question of ownership but “reunification”.

A British government official, who asked not to be named, said the row over the marbles meant it was not suitable for the meeting to go ahead.

Earlier, a spokesperson for Sunak said there were no plans to return the sculptures.

Asked about Mitsotakis’ statement, Sunak’s office said Britain’s relationship with Greece was “hugely important” and the two countries needed to work together on global challenges like tackling illegal migration.

Deputy British Prime Minister Oliver Dowden was available to meet Mitsotakis to discuss these issues instead, Sunak’s office said.

The British government has always ruled out giving up ownership of the marbles, which include about half of the 160-metre (525-ft) frieze that adorned the Parthenon, and says they were legally acquired.

A law prevents the British museum from removing objects from the collection apart from in certain circumstances, but the legislation does not prohibit a loan.

A meeting between Mitsotakis and British opposition leader Keir Starmer went ahead on Monday as planned. The Financial Times last week reported that Starmer would not block a “mutually acceptable” loan deal for the sculptures.

Labour declined to comment.

(Reporting by Renee Maltezou; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Stephen Coates)

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

We would like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick...

…but we are not going to force you to. Over 10 million users come to us each month for the news. We have not put it behind a paywall because the truth should not be a luxury.

Instead we ask our readers who can afford to contribute, even a small amount each month, to do so.

If you appreciate it and want to see us keep going then please consider contributing whatever you can.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

[%% img-description %%]

The lowdown on NHI: The why, the impact and your options

Why does the government want to introduce NHI, will this mean the end of medical schemes as we know them, and what can be expected to change in the next two years?

Join our live webinar on Thu 30 May at 12h00, live, online and free of charge.

MavericKids vol 3

How can a child learn to read if they don't have a book?

As the school year starts again, thousands of children will not have the basics (like books) to learn from.

81% of children aged 10 cannot read for meaning in South Africa.

For every copy of MavericKids sold from the Daily Maverick shop, we will donate a copy to Gift of the Givers for learners in need. If you don't have a child in your life, you can donate both copies.

Small effort, big impact.