ATHENS – Despite reports Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was in secret talks with British Museum Chairman George Osborne about return of the stolen Parthenon Marbles bringing excitement, they are not close to resolution, the Premier’s office said.
Mitsotakis had been in London to meet investors in a bid to accelerate Greece’s economic recovery during the waning COVID-19 pandemic and at one event indicated there was movement over the idea.
That fueled hopes that the marbles might return home some 200 years after a Scottish diplomat, Lord Elgin, ripped them off the Parthenon with permission of the ruling Ottoman Empire – which didn’t own them.
He later sold them to the British Museum during financial troubles and they have remained there, officials insisting they no longer belong to Greece because they were legally acquired despite being stolen.
The Greek newspaper Ta Nea reported – citing an unnamed source – that an agreement for the marbles return was 90 percent complete but that “a critical 10 percent remains unresolved,” without specifying the obstacles.
But government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou quashed that and said,“Since the beginning of its term the government has been and is in talks with the British side. These discussions are at a preliminary stage. We are far from announcements or a final deal,” reported Reuters.
Mitsotakis hadn’t clarified his statement the marbles could be reunited, if not returned and the Greek station ANT1 said there was a deal brewing for the British Museum to build an annex in Athens to house them but would keep ownership.
Osborne also later said the museum’s collection would never be dismantled despite building pressure from international groups and celebrities in the United Kingdom and elsewhere and surveys showing most Brits think Greece should get them back.
The Museum, in a statement, added that it wanted to forge a new “Parthenon Partnership” with Greece which Osborne earlier said would be a loan of the marbles with other Greek treasures on display as collateral and Greece agreeing it doesn’t own the treasures sculpted by Greeks centuries earlier.
“We are seeking new positive, long term partnerships with countries and communities around the world, and that of course includes Greece,” it said.
Citing an unnamed British official, ANT1 TV said that the only way to return the sculptures to Greece without violating British law was “if the British Museum opened a kind of annex in Greece.”