The long-standing dispute over the ownership of the Elgin Marbles, also known as the Parthenon Sculptures, between the UK and Greece escalated recently. The discord led to the cancellation of a scheduled meeting between UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, and his Greek counterpart, Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Both nations express regret as the cancellation hampers the opportunity to discuss pressing global issues such as the conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine and the climate crisis.
Ancient Decor Turned Point of Contention
The Elgin Marbles, a collection of ancient Greek sculptures, have been the crux of the dispute. These were carved between 447 and 432 B.C. as architectural decor for the Parthenon. Despite the UK Government's claims of acquiring them legally, Greece has been persistently calling for their return.
Broken Promises and Cancelled Meetings
The meeting between the two leaders was called off after a promise, allegedly not to discuss the Parthenon Sculptures publicly, was considered broken. The sculptures, a consistent source of disagreement between the nations for centuries, have Greece arguing for their return and the UK insisting on their legal acquisition.
Respect and Reunification
Greece accused Britain of lack of respect for cancelling the meeting over the 2,500-year-old Parthenon sculptures, brought to Britain in the 19th century. Athens, ever since its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1832, has been urging for the permanent return of these treasures. Greece has proposed a deal to reunite the sculptures in Athens, with discussions between Greece and the British Museum ongoing.
Prime Minister Sunak cited the importance of the UK-Greece relationship in NATO and the joint efforts to resolve international crises as a reason for his decision to cancel the meeting. Mitsotakis, irked by the cancellation, cut short his three-day visit and returned to Greece.