UK Officials Explore Legal Measures to Block Parthenon Sculptures Return Amid Cancelled Meeting

The Parthenon Sculptures are a "product of theft" at the British Museum

According to Sky News, government officials have reportedly deliberated legal strategies to prevent the export of the Parthenon Sculptures, as Downing Street unexpectedly cancelled a meeting between the UK Prime Minister and his Greek counterpart.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was scheduled to meet Rishi Sunak in London, but the meeting was called off, with Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden attending in Sunak's stead.

There were discussions within the government about potentially blocking the export license needed for the marble's return, a move challenged by those advocating for their repatriation.

The current proposal for a temporary loan is endorsed by George Osborne, Chairman of the British Museum and former Chancellor. However, this plan has sparked controversy, with one senior Tory describing it as a "sordid deal" that makes Osborne's position "untenable," suggesting he should step down.

Number 10 indicated that Sunak would not support changes to existing laws preventing the marble's permanent return to Greece and hinted at reluctance towards any loan arrangement.

Osborne, also the British Museum Chairman, previously expressed interest in finding ways to exhibit the marble in Greece, potentially through a loan deal involving sending part of the sculptures to Athens.

Reports suggest that Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer backs the plans, indicating during a meeting with Mitsotakis that Labour would not alter the current laws governing the marble's status.

The 1963 British Museum Act prohibits the institution from giving away objects in its collection except in specific circumstances.

The Parthenon Sculptures, also known as the Elgin Marbles, were stolen from Greece by Lord Elgin in the 1800s, with some fragments remaining in Greece.

Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis expressed disappointment over the cancelled meeting, emphasizing the deep history of friendship between Greece and Britain. He anticipated discussions on various mutual interests, including global conflicts, climate change, migration, and the Parthenon Sculptures.

The matter remains contentious, with legal considerations complicating the potential repatriation of the marbles to Greece."

Mr Mitsotakis met Labor leader Keir Starmer earlier.

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