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Renowed British Writer Fry Says Parthenon Marbles Belong in Greece

LONDON – Acclaimed British writer and actor Stephen Fry, whose works include books about Greek myths, joined a chorus of calls for the British Museum to return to Greece the stolen Parthenon Marbles.

That came amidst reports – both disputed and affirmed in Greece – that a deal was at hand which would see the 2500-year-old treasures only sent back as a loan, with Greece’s government rejecting as a condition.

But other reports, citing sources not named, said that unnamed Greek officials were negotiating an agreement with Museum Chairman George Osborne as pressure has built on the institution after an Italian museum and the Vatican said it would return Parthenon pieces they held.

Fry said the theft of the sculptures 200 years earlier by a Scottish diplomat, Lord Elgin – the museum calls them “The Elgin Marbles” – would be like the removal of the Stonehenge rocks in England, or the Eiffel Tower from Paris.

“I think this comparison speaks to the cultural importance of the Parthenon sculptures, which are an indelibly evocative symbol of Greek heritage and identity,” he said of its significance.

He earlier had thrown his literary weight behind the growing push for the museum to give back Greece its own treasures but museum officials insisted they belong to the United Kingdom now, not Greece.

Elgin sold them to the museum after getting into financial difficulties and a new Acropolis Museum was opened in Athens nearby the Parthenon with a top glass-walled floor set aside for the return, if it ever happens.

Fry told the British newspaper The Guardian that a solution that could satisfy both sides would be a cultural partnership in which the British Museum could return the Marbles and get loans from Greece of other artifacts to display.

under which other incredible Greek artefacts would be exhibited in the UK for the first time.

“I want the British Museum to continue in its role as a ‘museum of the world’, showcasing magnificent Greek artefacts as part of rotating exhibits. But the Parthenon sculptures must be reunified – permanently – in Athens,” said Fry.

The museum said in an earlier statement: “We’ve said publicly we’re actively seeking a new Parthenon partnership with our friends in Greece and as we enter a new year constructive discussions are ongoing.”

But media reports said that would be only as a loan which, if accepted, would require Greece to give up ownership permanently to the museum with contradictions still abounding about the possible terms.

Fry said: “The frieze and metope bring to life the Greek history, myths and legends that captivate lovers of classical antiquity like me. Not only do I believe they rightfully belong to Greece, but would these intricately carved sculptures not be all the more stunning to behold if seen reunited as a single artistic piece of work in the Acropolis Museum?”

For the past year, Osborne has been holding what were secret talks with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis over the possible return which would be a coup for him if it happens before elections this year that must be held before July.

“The UK government has outlined several times that the decision on the future of the Parthenon sculptures is a matter for the trustees of the British Museum,” Fry told the paper. “Taking the government’s position at face value means that the trustees are free to make the decision,” he said.

“We must not get bogged down by disputes about definitions regarding ownership. We must also move away from cyclical discussions about whether Lord Elgin was a hero or a villain. Ultimately, these won’t get us anywhere,” he added.

“By being magnanimous and returning the Parthenon sculptures, and establishing a new cultural partnership between our two countries, just think of the benefits for the Anglo-Greece relationship too,” he added.

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