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Greek PM slams Sunak as row over Elgin Marbles escalates

Greek PM slams Sunak as row over Elgin Marbles escalates

by host

ATHENS — Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis lashed out at his British counterpart Rishi Sunak on Monday in what would appear to be a bitter escalation of a long-running dispute over the Parthenon Marbles.

The two were scheduled to meet on Tuesday, but Sunak called off their meeting late on Monday, a move Greek government officials attribute to Mitsotakis’ recent strong insistence upon the return of the ancient sculptures from the British Museum.

“I express my annoyance that the British prime minister cancelled our planned meeting just hours before it was due to take place,” Mitsotakis said.

“Anyone who believes in the rightness and justice of his positions is never afraid of confronting arguments,” he added, noting that Greece’s position on the issue of the so-called Elgin Marbles was well known.

The marble sculptures were removed from Athens by diplomat and art aficionado Lord Elgin in the 19th century and have been housed in London since then.

Campaigners — most famously the late singer and actress Melina Mercouri — have for years called for their return to Greece, and talks between the museum and Greek officials were held last year to discuss a potential loan arrangement. In March, however, Sunak ruled out any change to current legislation that stops the British Museum handing the marbles back to Greece permanently.

On Saturday, the Financial Times said Mitsotakis would discuss the issue with U.K. Labour Party leader Keir Starmer who says he wouldn’t block a potential agreement that would see parts of the sculptures loaned to Greece should he become prime minister.

On Sunday, Mitsotakis bewailed the lack of progress on the issue in an interview with the BBC.

The cancellation came after Mitsotakis’ meeting wth Starmer. Downing Street confirmed Sunak didn’t have any public-facing meetings on Tuesday and that Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden was due to meet Mitsotakis.

Greek government officials said Mitsotakis denied he would hold a meeting with Dowden.

“Obviously we will continue pushing on the issue and our main interlocutor on the issue is the British Museum,” a Greek government official said.

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