Greek PM to Financial Times: Britain returning the Parthenon Sculptures would be a fantastic coup for public diplomacy

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During his London trip to discuss bilateral relations with his British counterpart, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told the Financial Times that the issue of the return of the Parthenon Sculptures to Greece, seized from Athens in the 19th century, was not a mere footnote in his UK visit and his meeting with Boris Johnson but a point of high interest, in an interview with the news outlet on Tuesday.

"There is a rather strong argument for their reunification [with the Acropolis Museum collection]," he noted, and continued: "If I were in the PM’s shoes and I were thinking out of the box in terms of global Britannia, and the idea of Britain really playing a role in the post Brexit world, it would be a fantastic coup for public diplomacy if they were to look at this from a different perspective," he told FT.

"If you go to visit the new Acropolis museum you will understand what I mean. That’s where you need to see the sculptures," said Mitsotakis, referring to plaster casts of the sculptures housed in the Acropolis Museum next to original pieces Elgin left behind. He stressed that the "Elgin Marbles" are "a significant monument and not just any artefact."

The Greek premier said he understood the position of the British Museum that a potential return of the Parthenon Sculptures could lead to "everyone asking for everything there is in the museum" but insisted that the Parthenon Sculptures were a special case.

British Prime Minister's Office press release

The British Prime Minister's Office at 10 Downing Street released a statement about the visit of Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to London on Tuesday.

Here follow excerpts from the text:

The leaders began by emphasising the value of the UK-Greek relationship as we mark the 200th anniversary of Greece’s war of independence.

They agreed to work to strengthen it further in areas including trade, education and tourism. The Prime Minister and Prime Minister Mitsotakis welcomed the fact that our countries’ vaccine rollouts have enabled travel to resume between the UK and Greece.

The Prime Minister and Prime Minister Mitsotakis welcomed the success of the COP26 Summit and the ambitious international commitments to reach net zero carbon emissions. They discussed the important role technology such as wind power can play in providing clean and renewable sources of energy.

Finally, Prime Minister Mitsotakis raised the issue of the Parthenon Sculptures. The Prime Minister said that he understood the strength of feeling of the Greek people on this issue, but reiterated the UK’s longstanding position that this matter is one for the trustees of the British Museum. The leaders agreed that this issue in no way affects the strength of the UK-Greece partnership.