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UK’s Sunak Cancels Talks With Greek PM Amid Parthenon Marbles Row

A diplomatic spat erupted between Greece and the UK on Monday after British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak canceled a meeting with his Greek counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis. It prompted Athens to...

A diplomatic spat erupted between Greece and the UK on Monday after British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak canceled a meeting with his Greek counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis. It prompted Athens to accuse London of trying to avoid discussing the contested Parthenon Marbles.It prompted Athens to accuse London of trying to avoid discussing the contested sculptures, also known as the Elgin Marbles. Over the years, Greece has repeatedly asked for the sculptures’ permanent return to Athens, but Britain and the British Museum have refused to do so.

UK’s Sunak Cancels Talks With Greek PM Amid Parthenon Marbles Row

Why In News

  • A diplomatic spat erupted between Greece and the UK on Monday after British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak canceled a meeting with his Greek counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis. It prompted Athens to accuse London of trying to avoid discussing the contested Parthenon Marbles.
  • It prompted Athens to accuse London of trying to avoid discussing the contested sculptures, also known as the Elgin Marbles. Over the years, Greece has repeatedly asked for the sculptures’ permanent return to Athens, but Britain and the British Museum have refused to do so.
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What are the Parthenon Sculptures?

  • The Parthenon Sculptures at the British Museum are more than 30 ancient stone sculptures from Greece that are more than 2,000 years old.
  • Most of them originally adorned the walls and grounds of the Parthenon temple on the rocky Acropolis hill in Athens.
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  • Completed in 432 BC, the temple is dedicated to the goddess Athena and is seen as the crowning glory of Athens’ Golden Age.
  • While one notable sculpture, which is 75 metres long, depicts a procession for the birthday of Athena, others show gods, heroes or mythical creatures.
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How Did The Sculptures Reach Britain?

  • They were removed from the Parthenon in the early 19th century by Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin and then-British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire.
  • The marbles were taken to Britain and purchased by the British Museum in 1816.
  • While Athen accused Lord Elgin of theft, he insisted he had permission to remove the marbles from the Ottoman Empire, which used to control Athen at the time.
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  • The original letter giving him permission, however, has been lost and its text remains disputed.
  • Athens has been demanding the return of the sculptures since it became independent in the early 1830s.
  • The campaign gained momentum in the 1980s after Greek Oscar-nominated actress Melina Mercouri launched a movement for their return when she was culture minister between 1981 and 1989.
  • A day after the meeting was cancelled between Sunak and Mitsotakis, Greek officials said they would continue talks with the British Museum about the return of the Parthenon Sculptures.
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  • Reports suggest that although the Tory government insists that Britain owns the marbles, the Labour party, expected to win next year’s national elections, will allow a loan agreement between the British Museum and the Greek government.
  • Britain’s government has always ruled out giving up ownership of the marbles, which include about half of the 160-metre (525-ft) frieze that adorned the Parthenon.
  • However, Athens has recently been pushing for a deal that would return the sculptures under some kind of loan arrangement.
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What Does Britain Say

  • A British government official, on the condition of anonymity, said the row over the marbles meant it was not suitable for the meeting to go ahead. A spokesperson for Rishi Sunak had earlier stated that there were no plans to return the sculptures.
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