SCULPTURES ROWRishi Sunak Abruptly Cancels Meeting with Greek PM Mitsotakis Over Parthenon Sculptures Comments

The anticipated meeting between British Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was abruptly canceled by No. 10, the office of the British Prime Minister, deepening the diplomatic row over the contentious Parthenon Sculptures, also known as the Elgin Marbles.

Greek PM Mitsotakis on Sunday likened the dispute over the fragmented Parthenon Sculptures to cutting Mona Lisa in Half and displaying them in separate museums | Photo Credit: Reuters

Expressing his disappointment, Prime Minister Mitsotakis stated, “Those who firmly believe in the correctness and justice of their positions are never hesitant to engage in constructive argumentation and debate.” The cancellation came on the heels of Mitsotakis’s assertion that the marbles should be returned, drawing a vivid analogy by stating, “Having some of the artifacts in London and the rest in Athens was like cutting the Mona Lisa in half.”

Mitsotakis, expressing disappointment at the cancellation “mere hours before its slated time,” highlighted the extensive bilateral relations between Greece and Britain. He had hoped to engage in discussions not only on the Parthenon Sculptures but also on global challenges, including the situations in Gaza and Ukraine, the climate crisis, and migration.

Sources within the Greek government revealed Mitsotakis’s bafflement and annoyance, suggesting a strained mood. The canceled meeting, originally scheduled for Tuesday, was to last 45 minutes, but Sunak’s discontent reportedly stemmed from Mitsotakis’s recent appearance on the BBC’s “Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg” program.

The Parthenon Sculptures also know as the Elgin Marbles were removed from the Parthenon temple in Athens by British soldier and diplomat Lord Elgin in the early 19th century. | Photo Credit: Reuters

The British government, confirming the cancellation, offered the Greek Prime Minister an alternative meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden. A senior Conservative source justified the cancellation, stating, “It became impossible for this meeting to go ahead following commentary regarding the Elgin Marbles prior to it.”

The Elgin Marbles, a focal point in the ongoing debate over repatriation of cultural artifacts, were removed from the Parthenon temple in Athens by British soldier and diplomat Lord Elgin in the early 19th century. The sculptures, currently housed in the British Museum, have been subject to discussions about potential loan arrangements with Greece.

The British Museum’s Chair of Trustees, George Osborne, has expressed openness to an arrangement allowing some sculptures to spend time in Greece. However, the cancellation of the Sunak-Mitsotakis meeting has added a new layer of complexity to the already contentious issue, highlighting the political implications surrounding the Elgin Marbles dispute. The diplomatic fallout may have broader repercussions, as evidenced by Mitsotakis’s meeting with Labour leader Keir Starmer and the ensuing political commentary from both sides.

Greek PM Mitsotakis met Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer in London on Monday. | Photo Credit: Reuters


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