Culture Minister Leda Mendoni on Tuesday sought to play down concerns that by requesting a “loan” of the Parthenon sculptures from the British Museum, Greece will be tacitly acknowledging the UK's claims of ownership over the ancient Greek artifacts.
“As this is a matter of theft, it automatically excludes ownership rights,” Mendoni told Skai TV, referring to the removal of the sculptures from the ancient citadel by Britain's envoy to Greece, Lord Elgin, in the early 19th century.
Mendoni said that the official request for the marble sculptures to be temporarily returned to Greece for celebrations in 2021 of Greece's 200-year independence from Turkish rule, would be framed in such a way so as to “safeguard Greek claims.”
Should the British Museum agree to the request, this would also be a sign of “softening” in London's stance on the issue, which has so far been “completely negative,” the minister added.
Mendoni's comments came two days after Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told Britain's Observer that his government planning to lodge a request for the temporary return of the sculptures to Greece in exchange for a loan of ancient Greek artifacts that have never been shown in the UK before.
In the same interview, meanwhile, Mendoni also rebuffed criticism that the New Democracy government's efforts to speed up the development of the former airport plot in southern Athens are overlooking concerns regarding ancient artifacts found at the site.
The ministry's Central Archaeological Council and Council of Modern Monuments are in accord with all the decisions that have been taken so far, Mendoni said.