Culture Minister Lina Mendoni has contacted the international associations for the reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures to inform them of the positions expressed by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and to propose action to inform Johnson and the British public that the British Museum's possession of the sculptures is illegal, according to a ministry announcement on Monday.
The minister's letter prompted a swift response from the national associations, as well as the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures, the culture ministry press release said.
It noted that the letter was prompted by an interview given by the UK prime minister to the newspaper "Ta Nea", in which he repeated the position that the sculptures were legally acquired by Lord Elgin based on the laws of that time and that the trustees of the British Museum were thus their legal owner.
In her reply, Mendoni said that Johnson does not appear to be informed of the latest evidence showing that the British Museum does not have legitimate ownership of the sculptures:
"Upon careful review of the statements made by U.K. Prime Minister, Mr. Boris Johnson, it is clear that he has not been properly informed by the competent state services of his country, of the new historical data regarding, that show that there has was never a legitimate acquisition of the Parthenon Sculptures by Lord Elgin and, therefore neither has the British Museum ever acquired the Sculptures in a legitimate manner. The Ministry of Culture and Sports can provide the necessary documentary evidence that can inform the British people that the British Museum possesses the Sculptures illegally.
For Greece, the British Museum does not have legitimate ownership or possession of the Sculptures. The Parthenon, as a symbol of UNESCO and Western Civilisation, reflects universal values. We are all obliged to work towards this direction."
Following the minister's briefing, the Chair of the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures Christiane Tytgat congratulated Mendoni for her swift response:
"This proves, once again, that despite the fact that Prime Minister Johnson has studied the classics in depth, we still have a lot of work to do in terms of informing people, even here in Greece, as they do not know exactly what it is we are asking to be returned and are not aware of the precise circumstances of its looting. And we will do it! …Neither Athens, nor Rome, were built in a day…"
The international association's honorary chair Louis Godart congratulated and expressed "deep gratitude" to Mendoni for her "wonderful reply to Boris Johnson" and pledged to continue the struggle for the return of "the sculptures of Pheidias and I have no doubt that we will ultimately succeed."
The deputy chair of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures, Paul Cartledge, also thanked the minister for the swiftness of her reply.