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Greek Culture Minister Squeezes British Museum over Parthenon Marbles

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The Parthenon Marbles on view at the British Museum. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Marcos Houzouris)

ATHENS – After Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he would ask the British Museum to loan the Parthenon Marbles to Greece – which owns them - Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said that doesn't mean there will be any letup in demands for their outright return.

“At an international level, all the parties involved in the issue of the Parthenon Marbles’ return believe that it needs to have a constant presence in the news so as to put pressure on the British Museum. I agree on that point,” she told Kathimerini’s Sunday edition. “They also say that we need to make it a moral issue,” she also added.

Mitsotakis recently told The Observer that Greece would be willing to lend ancient artifacts that have never been shown in the United Kingdom before in exchange for the Marbles’ temporary return for the 2011 200th anniversary of the Greek War of Independence from Turkey.

The marbles were taken down from the Parthenon at that time by a Scottish diplomat for the UK, Lord Elgin, who was going to keep them in his home after the Turks let him take them but then, facing bankruptcy, sold them to the British Museum, which claims to be the rightful owner.

“These things are a matter of momentum. You need to assess the moment. That moment came with the positive outcome of the prime minister’s recent talks with Macron,” Mendoni said, referring to an exchange on the issue by Mitsotakis and French President Emmanuel Macron during a visit to Paris last month.

But there was no talk about the Louvre returning to Greece two other famous stolen treasures, the Winged Victory stolen from the island of Samothrace in 1863 by a French diplomat and archaeologist and the statue of Aphrodite, taken off the Greek island of Milos in 1820, also during the Ottoman Occupation.