- British PM Boris Johnson held talks on Tuesday in London with Greece’s leader amid a renewed push by Athens for the British Museum to return marble statues that once stood in the Parthenon.
- The marbles — 17 figures and part of a frieze decorated the 2,500-year-old Acropolis monument — were taken from the ancient temple by Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire.
British PM Boris Johnson held talks on Tuesday in London with Greece’s leader amid a push by Athens for the British Museum to return marble statues that stood in the Parthenon.
But the British leader expressed that decisions about the issue rest with the British Museum, where the marbles are kept.
“The leaders agreed that the issue in no way that affects the strength of the UK-Greece partnership,” Johnson said.
The marbles — 17 figures that decorated the 2,500-year-old Acropolis monument — were taken from the ancient temple by Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, in the early 19th century. They have been at the centre of a long fight between the two countries.
Britain maintains that Elgin obtained the sculptures legally when the Ottomans ruled Greece. However, the Greek government says they were stolen and wants them returned for display in the new Acropolis Museum that opened in 2009.
Mitsotakis told Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper last week that “the marbles were stolen in the 19th century, they belong to the Acropolis Museum, and we need to discuss this problem in earnest.”
Earlier Tuesday, Johnson’s spokesman expressed that the British Museum operates independently of the government and is free from political interference.
“The museum’s trustees take any decisions relating to the collections, and the question about the location for the Parthenon sculptures is a matter for them,” he said.
The British Museum said on its website that Elgin’s actions were ” investigated by a Parliamentary Select Committee in 1816 and found to be entirely legal before the sculptures entered the new collection of the British Museum by Act of Parliament.”
The museum’s trustees added they “firmly believe that there’s a positive advantage and public benefit in having the sculptures divided between two great museums, each telling a complementary but different story.”
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