George Osborne meets Greek minister in 'bid to return Elgin Marbles'
George Osborne meets Greek minister in a ‘bid to send back the Elgin Marbles’, reports say
- The ex-Chancellor suggested a temporary swap arrangement for the sculptures
George Osborne met the Greek foreign minister and proposed sending up to half of the Elgin Marbles back to Athens, according to reports.
The meeting allegedly took place last week only hours before Rishi Sunak abruptly called off his meeting with his Greek counterpart.
According to the Politico website, ex-Chancellor Mr Osborne, chairman of the British Museum, suggested sending either a third or half of the Parthenon Marbles back to Athens in a temporary swap arrangement.
In exchange, ancient Greek artefacts never seen in Britain would be sent on loan to the UK.
The sculptures at the centre of the row were created in the 5th century BC and were once part of friezes that adorned the 2,500-year-old Parthenon temple on the Acropolis. They have been displayed at the British Museum in London for more than 200 years.
Ex-Chancellor George Osborne allegedly met the Greek foreign minister last week to propose sending up to half of the Elgin Marbles back to Athens
Mr Osborne, chairman of the British Museum, suggested sending either a third or half of the Parthenon Marbles back to Athens in a temporary swap arrangement
The meeting took place just hours after the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak called off a meeting with his Greek counterpart, according to reports
Mr Osborne said it had become clear that Mr Sunak’s administration would not support an exchange.
The British Museum Act of 1963 prohibits the removal of objects from their collection – a position in law that Mr Osborne said would mean Greece would have to eventually return the sculptures.
Speaking on his podcast Political Currency last week, Mr Osborne said negotiations will continue and that he would carry on pressing for an exchange deal that would allow the ancient sculptures to be displayed in Greece.
He said he intended to reach a deal where the sculptures spent time in both London and Athens, with ‘Greek treasures coming our way in return’.
He added: ‘And that is, I think, something worth exploring. And we can go on doing it whether or not Rishi Sunak meets the Greek prime minister.’
Mr Osborne outside the British Museum with its interim director Sir Mark Jones
On Wednesday Rishi Sunak accused the Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, of ‘grandstanding’ as he defended his decision to cancel a meeting between the two of them a few days earlier.
Mr Sunak said his counterpart had broken a promise that he would avoid using his trip to the UK to campaign publicly for the return of the sculptures.
At the time Greek foreign minister Giorgos Gerapetritis called the move ‘a massive diplomatic indiscretion’ and that ‘even Israel and Hamas communicate’.
Yet he went on to calm the situation by saying the ‘unfortunate incident will not affect relations’.
A British Museum spokesman said trustees had been ‘public and open about the fact we’re talking to the Greek government’ and hoped for an agreement ‘within the existing law’.
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