🚀 AI-picked stocks soar in May. PRFT is +55%—in just 16 days! Don’t miss June’s top picks.Unlock full list

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

Published 27/11/2023, 20:56
© Reuters. Foreign students take notes while visiting the Pnyx hill, opposite the Acropolis archaeological site in Athens, Greece, November 27, 2023. REUTERS/Louisa Gouliamaki

By Renee Maltezou and Andrew MacAskill

ATHENS/LONDON (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.

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.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An employee views examples of the Parthenon sculptures, sometimes referred to in the UK as the Elgin Marbles, on display at the British Museum in London, Britain, January 25, 2023. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

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.

Latest comments

Risk Disclosure: Trading in financial instruments and/or cryptocurrencies involves high risks including the risk of losing some, or all, of your investment amount, and may not be suitable for all investors. Prices of cryptocurrencies are extremely volatile and may be affected by external factors such as financial, regulatory or political events. Trading on margin increases the financial risks.
Before deciding to trade in financial instrument or cryptocurrencies you should be fully informed of the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, carefully consider your investment objectives, level of experience, and risk appetite, and seek professional advice where needed.
Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. The data and prices on the website are not necessarily provided by any market or exchange, but may be provided by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual price at any given market, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Fusion Media and any provider of the data contained in this website will not accept liability for any loss or damage as a result of your trading, or your reliance on the information contained within this website.
It is prohibited to use, store, reproduce, display, modify, transmit or distribute the data contained in this website without the explicit prior written permission of Fusion Media and/or the data provider. All intellectual property rights are reserved by the providers and/or the exchange providing the data contained in this website.
Fusion Media may be compensated by the advertisers that appear on the website, based on your interaction with the advertisements or advertisers.
© 2007-2024 - Fusion Media Limited. All Rights Reserved.