Greek PM accuses Rishi Sunak of canceling meeting over Parthenon Sculptures row | Mint
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Business News/ News / World/  Greek PM accuses Rishi Sunak of canceling meeting over Parthenon Sculptures row

Greek PM accuses Rishi Sunak of canceling meeting over Parthenon Sculptures row

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis accuses British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of canceling a meeting in London over the Parthenon Sculptures dispute.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. (Reuters)Premium
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. (Reuters)

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis accused his British counterpart Rishi Sunak of canceling a meeting in London on Tuesday, November 28, in a diplomatic row over the status of the Parthenon Sculptures, Reuters reported. 

In an official statement, Mitsotakis said, “I express my annoyance that the British Prime Minister canceled our planned meeting just hours before it was due to take place."

Greece's positions on the issue of the Parthenon Sculptures are well-known, Mitsotakis said, adding that he had hoped to have the opportunity to discuss them with his British counterpart. 

"Anyone who believes in the rightness and justice of his positions is never afraid of confronting arguments," he said as quoted by Reuters. 

Mitsotakis also 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.

Parthenon temple row

Greece has repeatedly requested that the 2,500-year-old sculptures that British diplomat Lord Elgin took from the Parthenon temple during his time as ambassador to the Ottoman Empire be returned to the museum permanently.

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.

He claimed that the sculptures' continuous display in the British Museum was akin to severing the "Mona Lisa in half" and that "reunification" rather than ownership was at issue, as per Reuters reports. 

The marbles, which comprise around half of the 160-meter (525-foot) Parthenon frieze, have long been disputed by the British government, which maintains that they were obtained lawfully.

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

What does Britain say? 

A British government official, on the condition of anonymity, said the row over the marbles meant it was not suitable for the meeting to go ahead. A spokesperson for Rishi Sunak had earlier stated that there were no plans to return the sculptures. 

Speaking 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.

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.


(With Reuters inputs)

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Published: 28 Nov 2023, 06:39 AM IST
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