British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told his Greek counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis that the repatriation of the Parthenon marbles is one for the British Museum.
Mitsotakis raised the issue with Johnson in Downing Street on Tuesday, Johnson’s office said.
“The Prime Minister (Johnson) 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,” a statement said.
This contradicted Mitsotakis, who said last week the issue was a matter for negotiation between the two governments.
Known in Britain as the Elgin Marbles, the sculptures make up about half of a 160-meter frieze that adorned the Parthenon, a 5th century BC architectural masterpiece. Most of the other surviving sculptures are in Athens.
The British Museum says there are no current discussions with the Greek government on the issue. It says Elgin acted legally when he removed the sculptures from Athens, and they are “a vital element in this interconnected world collection”.
Johnson had told a Greek newspaper in March that the sculptures “were legally acquired by Lord Elgin under the appropriate laws of the time and have been legally owned by the British Museum’s trustees since their acquisition”.
Mitsotakis told Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper last week that “the marbles were stolen in the 19th century, they belong in the Acropolis Museum and we need to discuss this issue in earnest.”