ATHENS – After Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said it would be “difficult, but not impossible” for the stolen Parthenon Marbles to be returned, a British newspaper said a deal could see them in a British Museum annex in the Acropolis Museum.
That could be this year, a senior Greek official not named told The Times of London, and while Greece won’t give up ownership – nor will the British Museum which said they were legally obtained from Scottish diplomat Lord Elgin who ripped them off the Parthenon – citing permission from the ruling Ottoman Empire.
The paper said the deal to get around that would see a political compromise setting aside rights to the marbles but that they would be sent back to the Acropolis Museum, which opened in 2009 to house them if ever returned.
But the report said the Greek official suggested they they would be displayed, presumably in the top glass-walled floor set aside for them with a view of the nearby Acropolis – in what would be called the British Museum Annex.
There have been a number of contradictory media reports about whether Greece and officials of the British Museum, which has had the pilfered treasures for 200 years, could work out a deal for them to come back to Greece.
Those included whether Greece was talking about a 20-year loan with a staggered return of the marbles – that could see rotating returns to the British Museum – but saw Greek officials denying that was the case.
Now the United Kingdom newspaper said that the Greek official said a “win-win” deal is close and would avert a dispute over who owns the marbles, the talks remaining secret.
That is just one of several solutions being discussed, the paper said, after Greece said there were no discussions after reports that there were, starting in secret negotiations a year earlier between Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and British Museum Chairman George Osborne, who offered only a loan, not outright return.
The report said both the British Museum and Greek government now had ruled out any “loan, or trade or swap because any such deal would have to include reference to the contentious issue of ownership, a red line for both sides.”
The New York Times and other media, including British, had earlier reported that sources said that a deal was being discussed for a 20-year-loan of the stolen treasures in batches, with Greek putting up collateral in the form of other artifacts.
Mendoni said, “The government has been working from the start systematically, responsibly, and effectively to achieve the national goal – the return and reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures to Athens and the Acropolis Museum.”
The New York Times said talks were ongoing but further apart than recent more optimistic media reports that indicated a deal was imminent, with the idea of a loan initially leading the New Democracy government to reject it.
But the story said that while the museum wants to loan Greece – without giving up what it claims is the rightful ownership – of only a portion of the marbles and keeping the rest hostage, that Greece wants them all at once.
Osborne reportedly said the institution would return a smaller portion of the frieze as well as carvings of gods and centaurs, as a short-term loan, the person said. The museum could offer up to a third of the Parthenon artifacts in its collection, the source not named told the New York Times.
Once Greece returned them, more would be sent to the Acropolis Museum to replace them and that over time more would be loaned to Greece, the key being that The British Museum would own them.