ATHENS – After repeated denials it would accept a return or reunification of the stolen Parthenon Marbles, Greece is reportedly willing to accept sharing them on a loan basis with the British Museum, which has held them for 220 years.
Museum Chairman George Osborne, who had been in secret talks with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis over the fate of the 2500-year-old sculptures ripped off the Parthenon by a Scottish diplomat, Lord Elgin, said the plan now is for them to be seen both in London and Athens, said Reuters.
No details were given but the report comes after earlier discussions were said to have centered around the museum sending a part of the marbles to Greece and holding the rest as collateral to insure their return, and that Greece would also have to send the British Museum other rare treasures to be displayed.
That would avoid the word “loan” that is anathema to Mitsotakis and his New Democracy government ahead of coming spring elections, the idea drawing a fierce backlash from critics who said that would give away the marbles ownership.
Osborne, a former finance minister told BBC Radio that, “It’s a very hard problem to solve. But I think there is a way forward where these sculptures, the Elgin Marbles, the Parthenon Sculptures, could be seen both in London and in Athens, and that will be a win-win for Greece and for us.”
When asked if that meant loans, he said: “We’re talking to the Greek government about that, about a new arrangement and what I didn’t want to do is force the Greeks to accept things that they find impossible, and equally they can’t force on us things that we would find impossible,” dodging an answer.
But Osborne ruled out a scenario where the sculptures could be handed over permanently, saying it would need a change of United Kingdon law, in essence indicating they would only be loaned to Greece.
“If we wanted to send all the Elgin Marbles back then that would require an Act of Parliament, and that would be beyond my authority,” he said. “But what the museum can do is try and form a new relationship with Greece.”
It wasn’t said how the sharing would work or if it would mean sending batches of the marbles to Greece, to be returned, after every government said they should be returned permanently and wouldn’t discuss anything else.