by Aggelos Skordas
The timeless Greek request for the return of the Parthenon Marbles, on display in the Duveen Gallery of the British Museum since 1816, was raised by the President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos to the Prince of Wales, Charles, during a dinner in honor of the heir to the British throne and his wife Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla, in Athens Presidential Mansion. The royal couple arrived in Athens for an official three-day visit on Wednesday morning and was received by the Deputy Minister to the Prime Minister Terence Quick.
Referring to the long tradition of the United Kingdom in the research of Classical Studies and the Greek civilization, as well as the bilateral cooperation that has been developed in the field, Pavlopoulos noted that “it is precisely this tradition, combined with the bonds of friendship that connect us, which makes us hope for the return of the Parthenon Marbles and that the restoration of the unity of this glorious cradle of our Culture will ultimately be successful”.
Earlier, after laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Syntagma Square, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall held meetings with the Greek President and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras respectively.
Welcoming the royal couple Pavlopoulos described the visit as “historic” explaining that this is the first time the heir to the British throne has come to Greece on an official and not a private visit. Referring to the battles fought jointly by Greece and Britain for freedom and democracy, the Greek President underlined the significant role of the philhellene Lord Byron and Admiral Edward Codrington during the Greek War of Independence. “We never forget Lord Byron, [the Battle of] Navarino and the joint struggles both countries gave in two World Wars. This visit adds an important link in the chain of friendship we have had since the establishment of the Greek State”, Pavlopoulos said.
The Greek President also noted Prince Charles’ Greek roots through his father Prince Philip, who was born in Mon Repos Palace in Corfu, and his grandfather Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark. On his behalf, the Prince of Wales, after thanking the Greek President for the warm welcoming, spoke of the historic ties between the two nations. “I have only warm words about the two countries’ relationship. I hope and wish that we will have many opportunities in the future to meet again”, Prince Charles replied.
“It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to Greece. I know that you have visited Greece many times in the past, but privately. This means that you love our country. It is the first time, however, that you are visiting Greece in your official capacity and, as I was recently informed, it is the first time that a member of the British royal family is carrying out an official visit to Greece”, the Greek Premier said after receiving Prince Charles in Maximos Mansion. “I consider that this is a very important event and I believe, also, that your visit can be a landmark in our bilateral relations. Especially now, when both our countries are facing crucial turning points in their history. And this is the reason why I believe we have to enhance our cooperation even more”, he added.
Prince Charles said that his visit is an opportunity to point out the ties between the two countries, which went back a long way. He expressed hope that Greece and the United Kingdom will continue those things that they already share and achieve a great many things as regards security and migration and the major challenges the two countries face. He also thanked the Greek government for its support and cooperation in all areas, expressing his conviction that the great friendship between the two countries will continue in the future. Following the visit to Maximos Mansion, the Duchess of Cornwall and the wife of the Greek Prime Minister Betty Baziana paid a visit to the Benaki Museum.
On Thursday, the royal couple is scheduled to visit the 108-year-old battleship “Averof”, now serving as a floating museum berthed in the Faliro Bay, southern Athens, as well as two British warships (HMS “Echo” and HMC “Valiant”) currently docked at the port of Piraeus. The Prince of Wales will also meet the head of Greece’s Orthodox Church Archibishop Ieronymos and attend a meeting of the British Council at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center. On Friday Prince Charles and Camilla will travel to Crete where they will visit the archaeological site of Knossos.