Sunak cancels Greek PM meeting in Parthenon Sculptures rowon November 27, 2023 at 10:43 pm

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Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who wants the Parthenon Sculptures returned, is described as “disappointed”.

The Parthernon Marbles, also known as the Elgin MarblesImage source, Reuters

A diplomatic row has broken out between the British and Greek governments over the Elgin Marbles.

The Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was due to meet Rishi Sunak in London, but No 10 cancelled it at the last minute.

A spokesman for the Greek prime minister told the BBC that he was “disappointed” the meeting had been cancelled “at the 11th hour”.

The British government confirmed the meeting had been cancelled.

The cancellation came they day after Mr Mitsotakis told the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg that the marbles should be returned.

A spokesman for the Office of the Greek Prime Minister told the BBC: “The Prime Minister is disappointed that Prime Minister Sunak cancelled their bilateral meeting at the 11th hour today.”

“Greece and Britain have a very deep history of friendship and cooperation, and the Greek government is extremely surprised by this decision.

“The prime minister was looking forward to discussing a range of topics of mutual interest including the Israel-Gaza conflict, Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, climate change, as well as common challenges such as migration, and of course the Parthenon Sculptures.”

Sources with knowledge of the mood in the Greek government said Mr Mitsotakis was “baffled” and “annoyed.”

The meeting had been due to happen at lunchtime tomorrow and, the BBC understands, was due to last 45 minutes.

But Mr Mitsotakis’s appearance on the the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme had irritated Rishi Sunak.

The Greek prime minister said the Elgin Marbles ought to be returned as having some of the artefacts in London and the rest in Athens is like cutting the Mona Lisa in half.

The marbles, also known as the Parthenon Sculptures, are ancient Greek treasures in the British Museum brought to the UK by the British diplomat Lord Elgin in the early 19th Century.

The British government confirmed the cancellation and said the deputy prime minister would meet the Greek PM instead.

A senior Conservative source said: “It became impossible for this meeting to go ahead following commentary regarding the Elgin marbles prior to it.

“Our position is clear – the Elgin Marbles are part of the permanent collection of the British museum and belong here. It is reckless for any British politician to suggest that this is subject to negotiation.”

Mr Mitsotakis met the Labour leader Keir Starmer earlier.

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