The British Museum has turned down a request by Greek authorities for a process of mediation, facilitated by Unesco, on the subject of the Parthenon Marbles that are currently on display in London.
A letter signed by Sir Richard Lambert, chairman of the museum’s board of trustees, that was posted on the website of the institution said that the British Museum is not a government body hence there was no role for an intergovernmental agency like Unesco.
“The Trustees of the British Museum hold [the collections] not only for the British people, but for the benefit of the world public, present and future,” it added.
The letter sparked a reaction from the Greek government. In a statement, Culture Minister Nikos Xydakis criticized the British officials’ “unwillingness to cooperate.”
“We are surprised at the ongoing effort to downgrade an interstate issue to an issue between museums,” he said, adding that the Greek government would continue its bid to repatriate the sculptures.
Greece has unsuccessfully campaigned for the return of the ancient sculptures that were removed from the citadel by Lord Elgin in the early 1800s.