Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis stepped up a campaign to bring home the so-called Parthenon friezes, which had been taken down from the Acropolis in Athens and sent to Great Britain and the British Museum in the early 1800s.
This was not appreciated by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who canceled at short notice a planned meeting with his Greek counterpart in London after a television interview with the BBC.
Mitsotakis declared that he was “dissatisfied” by Sunak’s actions.
In a televised interview, the Greek prime minister rejected a compromise plan that would have split the ancient frieze between Britain and Greece.
– Mitsotakis told the BBC it would be like taking the Mona Lisa apart and keeping one half in the British Museum and the other half in the Louvre.
The friezes were bought for £35,000 in 1801-02 on behalf of the British Lord Elgin, who obtained permission from the Ottoman Empire, which ruled Greece, to take the antiquities out of the country. Thus, the British claim that antiquities are not stolen.
Greece has long wanted the frieze back and has prepared an empty space for the objects in a museum on the Acropolis in Athens, which opened in 2009.
The British Museum, like other institutions in the Western world, is under increasing pressure to return objects taken from various parts of the world over the centuries. But a British law from 1963 prohibits the removal of objects from museum collections.
One way to get around that is to lend Greece goods. This is the solution proposed by British opposition leader Keir Starmer. He chose to meet Mitsotakis during his trip to London.
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