ATHENS — After more than a century of fruitless lobbying, Greece is pinning its hopes of reclaiming the 5th-Century B.C. Parthenon Sculptures from Britain on mediation by the United Nations’ cultural agency — and a touch of Hollywood glamor.
Culture Minister Costas Tassoulas said that UNESCO has urged Britain to consider a year-old proposal to participate in a mediation process to resolve the world’s most famous heritage dispute.
He was flanked at a press conference by a team of London lawyers — including U.S. actor George Clooney’s wife, Amal — advising Greece on the process, on which Tassoulas said Britain has not yet taken a position.
The sculptures were removed — illegally, according to Greece — by Scottish nobleman Thomas Bruce in the early 19th century, when it was considered fashionable for major European powers to collect ancient art from other cultures. They have been on display in London’s British Museum since 1816.
Greece hopes to one day reunite all the surviving marble sculptures that stood on the Parthenon temple for more than 2,000 years in a new, purpose-built museum under the Acropolis Hill.
The British Museum and the UK government say the works are better off in London, and warn that to relinquish them would lead to a flood of similar demands by other countries.
Tassoulas insisted that reuniting the works would not set a precedent. “(This) is a demand to reunite a hacked-up treasure that cannot be understood unless united, and can only be united in Greece,” he said.
But he played down the option, raised by the visiting legal team, that Greece could take Britain to court if mediation fails.
One of the lawyers, Geoffrey Robertson, said potential alternatives could include the International Court of Justice, the European court of human rights and “alternative dispute mechanisms.”
Clooney received red-carpet treatment in Greece, meeting earlier with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.