Mitsotakis-Sunak Scandal: Britain's ties with Greece are hugely important, says British government spox

Rishi Sunak Parthenon Sculptures

"The UK-Greece relationship is hugely important. From our work together in NATO to tackling shared challenges like illegal migration, to joint efforts to resolve the crisis in the Middle East and war in Ukraine," a British government spokesperson said.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis expressed his dismay that British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak cancelled their meeting in London "a few hours before it was due" in a statement on Monday evening.

The two leaders were scheduled to meet on Tuesday, as part of Mitsotakis' working visit to the UK. The cancellation came at Sunak's initiative.

Commenting on the move, Mitsotakis said that "Greece and Britain are joined by traditional ties of friendship, and the framework of our bilateral relations is especially broad."

He noted that Greece's stance on the Parthenon Sculptures is well known, adding that he was hoping "to have the opportunity to discuss it with my British counterpart, along with current challenges: Gaza, Ukraine, the climate crisis and migration."

Anyone who believes his stance is right and fair is never afraid of debating, noted Mitsotakis.

On Monday, the British Prime Minister's official spokesman stressed Sunak's support for the law that prevents the marbles from being permanently returned and suggested he would not be in favour of any loan arrangement.

British Museum chairman George Osborne, a former chancellor, has previously said he is exploring ways for the Elgin Marbles to be displayed in Greece, with speculation that this could involve a loan deal in which part of the set would be sent to Athens.

Asked about such an agreement, Sunak's spokesman told reporters: "We have no plans to change our approach and certainly we think that the museum is the right place for them.

"I haven't asked him specifically about short-term or new ideas that have been put forward, but I think he's been fairly robust on his position."

The official also said the Government had "no plans" to change the 1963 British Museum Act which prohibits the removal of objects from the institution's collection.

Mitsotakis also met with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer during his visit to the UK capital.

Sir Keir had indicated he would tell the Greek premier that a Labour government would not change the law, but that he would not stand in the way of a loan deal that was mutually acceptable to the museum and the Greek government.

Labour has said that, if Mr Sunak had scrapped the talks because of controversy over the Elgin Marbles, then it showed he "isn't able to provide the serious economic leadership our country requires".

READ MORE: Rishi Sunak’s pro-Turkish position and his defeat in the polls.

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