LONDON – The United Kingdom’s new Prime Minister Liz Truss, already off to a rocky start, said she won’t allow the stolen Parthenon Marbles kept in the British Museum for 200 years to be sent back to Greece.
The British newspaper The Times said she disagreed with a proposal by the museum’s Chairman George Osborne that “there’s a deal to be done,” even if it’s only to loan the marbles to Greece in exchange for collateral and stipulation they don’t belong to Greece anymore.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he would raise the question of their return when he visits Britain this year after having gotten nowhere with the idea when Boris Johnson – who once championed the cause of the marbles being sent back – said he wouldn’t step in.
Mitsotakis told The Sunday Times that the time has come for the marbles to be returned, although his New Democracy government isn’t willing to go to European Union courts and is relying on a persuasion campaign that’s failed.
“I think the climate has changed in the United Kingdom,” said Mitsotakis. “At a time when Truss will be looking to build her credibility and when the UK is sort of cornered in terms of its overall image after the (Queen’s) funeral it will be a fantastic gesture,” he said.
He said he was counting on a “good personal relationship” with King Charles, who is said to be a Hellenophile, to help even though the new king has no authority to intervene with the government or museum and is likely to stay neutral.
Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni raised the issue of the Parthenon Marbles return during her address at the UNESCO-Mondiacult 2022 conference held in Mexico after saying they were stolen.
She noted how desperate the cause has been, the effort begun 40 years earlier when the great actress Melina Mercouri was Culture Minister and worked for their return, branding them The Parthenon Marbles.
They had been called The Elgin Marbles, after the Scottish diplomat who took them off the Parthenon, supposedly with the consent of the then-ruling Ottoman Empire – which didn’t own them and had no authority to give them away.
“The return and reunification of the sculptures is not only a matter of ethics and justice. It is at the core of the very principles on which UNESCO is based. Dialogue between nations presupposes dialogue between cultures, which in turn presupposes respect for the history, heritage and identity of each nation,” she said, reported GTP Headlines of her new push.
Mendoni added that that the Parthenon, a “monument-symbol of UNESCO and registered on its World Heritage List” can no longer remain fragmented and scattered, but the British Museum has been unmoved by any argument.
“The preservation of the authenticity, unity, and integrity of cultural heritage means defending against theft, looting, vandalism, and illegal trade,” she said to deaf ears at the London museum.