ΑΤΗΕΝS – Refuting reports that the United Kingdom and Greece agreed to talks about returning the stolen Parthenon Marbles, the British Museum – where they’ve been held for 200 years – said they would only be loaned.
Museum officials told Kathimerini in writing that the Greek sculptures no longer belong to Greece and that the museum is the best place for people to see them, not the Acropolis Museum which opened in 2009 specifically designed to show them off if ever returned.
The British said they are open only to lending Greece its own treasures – which Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis earlier was open to before changing his mind – and that it has amicable dealings with the Acropolis Museum.
The United Nations cultural agency UNESCO earlier said Greece and the UK had agreed to hold formal talks that could pave the way for the return of the Parthenon sculptures but the British Museum denied it.
UNESCO said that the two sides had agreed to a meeting at the ministerial level to discuss Greece’s demand but a new feud has broken out after the British Museum said the treasures were recovered from the rubble two centuries ago by a Scottish diplomat Lord Elgin.
He said he had permission from the occupation government of the Ottoman Empire, which didn’t own them and Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni disputed the claim they were tossed aside but the New Democracy government won’t sue to get them back.
The assertion was made by the British Museum’s Deputy Director Jonathan Williams, during a meeting of UNESCO, the paper said.
“Much of the frieze was in fact removed from the rubble around the Parthenon… These objects were not all hacked from the building as has been suggested,” Williams was quoted as saying during the meeting.
In a statement published in the British newspaper The Guardian, Mendoni said that wasn’t so and that Elgin was a serial thief. He sold the stolen marbles to the British Museum after getting into financial troubles.
“Over the years, Greek authorities and the international scientific community have demonstrated with unshakable arguments the true events surrounding the removal of the Parthenon sculptures,” Mendoni said.
“Lord Elgin used illicit and inequitable means to seize and export the Parthenon sculptures, without real legal permission to do so, in a blatant act of serial theft,” she also said without explaining why Greece won’t sue to get them back.