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Greece PM Laments Cancelled UK Meeting Amid Parthenon Marbles Dispute

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis expressed displeasure on Monday after the cancellation of his planned meeting in London with his British counterpart Rishi Sunak a few hours before it was due to take place.

It’s been reported that Sunak cancelled the meeting because Mitsotakis was planning to raise the issue of the repatriation to Greece of the Parthenon Marbles, Greek antiquities that are currently held in the British Museum and are known in the UK as the Elgin Marbles.

Sunak decided to cancel the meeting on Monday and suggested that Mitsotakis meet British Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden instead, but the Greek premier refused.

“Whoever believes in the correctness and justice of his positions is never afraid of a confrontation of arguments,” Mitsotakis said in a statement on the Greek prime ministerial website.

“Greece’s positions on the issue of the Parthenon Marbles are well known. I was hoping to have the opportunity to discuss them with my British counterpart, along with the major challenges of the international situation: Gaza, Ukraine, the climate crisis, migration,” he added.

In an interview with the BBC on Sunday, Mitsotakis was asked whether the Parthenon Marbles look better in the British Museum or in Athens. Mitsotakis replied that “the answer is very clear, they look better at the Acropolis Museum, which was built for that purpose”.

He again called for the return of the marbles, saying that having some of the ancient Greek artefacts in London and the rest in Athens is like cutting the Mona Lisa in half.

A senior official from Britain’s ruling Conservative Party official told the Financial Times newspaper that the meeting between the two prime ministers became impossible after Mitsotakis’ comments to the BBC.

“Our position is clear: the Elgin Marbles are part of the permanent collection of the British Museum and belong here. It is reckless for any British politician to suggest that this is subject to negotiation,” the official told the Financial Times.

Sunak’s office said in a statement that the UK-Greece relationship is “hugely important”, avoiding any comment on the Marbles dispute.

“The UK-Greece relationship is hugely important,” Sunak’s office said in a statement, avoiding any comment on the Marbles dispute.

“From our work together in NATO, to tackling shared challenges like illegal migration, to joint efforts to resolve the crisis in the Middle East and war in Ukraine. The deputy prime minister was available to meet with the Greek PM to discuss these important issues,” the statement said.

The classical marbles were once part of a frieze that decorated the Parthenon temple in Athens, built 447-432 BC, but they were removed in the early 19th century by agents of British diplomat Lord Elgin when Athens was under Ottoman rule. They were sold in 1816 to the British government and placed in the British Museum.

The marbles on display in London make up approximately half of the total sculptural decoration of the Parthenon that survives today. Successive Greek governments have demanded them back, saying they were removed illegally. Britain says they were purchased fairly.

George Osborne, the chairman of the British Museum’s trustees, said on November 16 that he hopes for an agreement between Greece and the British Museum “that enables these great sculptures to be seen in Athens, as well as London”.

Osborne suggested that in return, the compromise agreement could allow “other treasures from Greece, some that have never left those shores, to be seen here at the British Museum”.

But senior Conservative officials in London have been briefing media on Tuesday that UK premier Sunak is determined that the marbles should remain at the British Museum.

Source : Balkan Insight