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Mitsotakis: Return of Parthenon Sculptures an issue of ‘values’

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Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis held talks with his British counterpart, Boris Johnson, at 10 Downing Street in London on Tuesday amid a renewed push by the government for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures.

Greek government sources said Mitsotakis raised the issue of the sculptures, which were removed from the ancient temple in Athens more than 200 years ago and are held in the British Museum.

“Our request is not a flare. We will insist methodically to build the necessary foundations among British public opinion for the need to reunite [them] with the sculptures in the Acropolis Museum,” Mitsotakis told Greek reporters following the meeting.

“It is an important issue concerning our bilateral relations,” he continued.

“it is not basically a legal issue; it is primarily an issue of values and politics. We will use all means at our disposal to achieve our goal.”

The marbles – 17 figures and part of a frieze that decorated the 2,500-year-old Acropolis monument – were taken by Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, in the early 19th century.

Britain maintains that Elgin acquired the sculptures legally when Greece was ruled by the Ottomans. The Greek government says they were stolen and wants them returned for display in the new Acropolis Museum that opened in 2009.

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.”

The British government said Tuesday that it has no say in the matter.

“The possession of the marbles is a matter purely for the museum,” Johnson spokesman Max Blain said. “It is not one for the UK government.”

Before his meeting with Johnson, Mitsotakis spoke of very strong, historical relations between Greece and Britain.

Mitsotakis characterized Johnson as “a true philhellene”, and Johnson thanked him for his leading stance at the COP26 climate change conference. [AP-Kathimerini]