Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis today expressed his “dissatisfaction” after his British counterpart Rishi Sunak’s decision to cancel the meeting during which they were to discuss the already long-standing dispute over the Parthenon friezes.
So much for negotiations over the return of the Parthenon marbles, about which the media are making recurring assumptions.
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Clash over UK and Greece about Parthenon marbles
Between the United Kingdom and Greece, it is now an open diplomatic clash. It was triggered by a vindictive-sounding interview with the BBC by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who has been visiting London since Sunday evening.
Following which, his British colleague Rishi Sunak decided to cancel at very short notice the twosome meeting that was supposed to crown the event today, effectively slamming the Downing Street door in the host’s face.
A veritable slap in the face, according to the Kingdom’s press, to which Mitsotakis – “astonished and irritated” in the words of his entourage – could only respond by departing for home in these hours with an unprecedented nothingness in terms of government-to-government relations.
The origin of the diplomatic clash
Igniting the querelle between the two premiers – both conservatives and leading allied countries in NATO – were the strong words to the BBC with which Mitsotakis returned to – brought to London by Lord Elgin in the 1800s at the time of the British Empire thanks to the complacency of the Ottomans and later acquired by the British Museum in London.
Thus dismissing as unacceptable even a hypothetical partition: sarcastically equated with the idea of “splitting the Mona Lisa in two.” Statements that sent Sunak into a rage, who through a spokesman reiterated London’s principled stance against the restitution of a “legally acquired” historical heritage.
Restitution, moreover, forbidden by law by an ad hoc rule passed years ago in Westminster, the British Museum Act. The escalation thus went as far as the unexpected cancellation of the face-to-face meeting.
On whose agenda, according to Downing Street’s instructions, the marbles dossier should not even have been on the agenda in the first place. But rather discussions on serious current international crises such as the war between Russia and Ukraine or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.