PM: Parthenon Marbles must come home

PM: Parthenon Marbles must come home

The obligation that the UK return the Parthenon Marbles to Athens was raised by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis Friday as he spoke at an event in Paris celebrating UNESCO’s 75th anniversary.

“It is necessary for the sculptures of the Parthenon located in London to be reunited with most of the collection of sculptures of the Parthenon located in Athens,” he said, adding that a key step was taken in September by the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin (ICPRCP).

“For the first time, a decision was adopted recognizing that the case has an intergovernmental character and, therefore, the obligation to return the Parthenon sculptures concerns the UK government,” he said.

Until its bombardment by Venetian cannon fire in 1687, the 5th century BC Parthenon remained virtually unharmed.

The second biggest blow it received occurred when in 1801-04, Lord Elgin, British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire in Constantinople, removed half of the sculptural decoration and transported it to England.

Alexandros Ragavis, secretary of the Archaeological Society of Athens, made the first official request for their return immediately after the establishment of the modern Greek state in 1842. It was repeated in 1924 on the 100th anniversary of the death of Lord Byron, while in 1961 the mayor of Athens and the Academy of Athens asked England to repatriate the Parthenon Marbles.

1982 was a milestone year for the return of the sculptures when Culture Minister Melina Mercouri submitted the request at UNESCO’s World Conference on Cultural Policy in Mexico, which voted in favor of their return.

In 1984, a new official request was rejected by the British side, while Greece also submitted another formal request to UNESCO.

In 1999 the European Parliament also called for their return to promote common European cultural heritage. 

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