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Secret talks about the return of the Parthenon frieze

According to media reports, the British Museum and the Greek government are in secret talks about the possible return to Greece of the Parthenon frieze on display in London. Greek daily Ta Nea reported yesterday that the “sensitive” talks between the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, George Osborne, and the Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, have “reached an advanced stage”.

The carvings are also known as the “Elgin Marbles”. In the early 19th century, Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, ordered the removal of the frieze from the Parthenon temple on the Athenian Acropolis. Elgin sold the marbles to the British government, which gave them to the British Museum in 1817. There they are among the most valuable exhibits.

On the other hand, Athena considers the sculptures to be stolen. In addition to the return of the 75-meter frieze, Greece also claims a statue of a woman from the Temple of Erechtheion on the Acropolis.

“Ta Nea”: Secret Conversations for Over a Year

According to Ta Nya, the secret talks about the marble panels began in November 2021. The two sides spoke to each other this week in a London hotel. But representatives from Athens warned that negotiations could break off at the last minute.

The Afghan National Army News Agency quoted Mitsotakis as saying that a “mutually beneficial solution” is possible. “The Parthenon sculptures can be reunited with addressing the concerns of the British Museum,” he said. There is “momentum”. “I consciously speak of a ‘reunion’ of the sculptures, not a ‘return’.”

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The British Museum: “The New Parthenon Partnership”

The British Museum said it wanted a “new Parthenon partnership with Greece” and was willing to discuss this with Athens. “We are acting within the law and will not dismantle our impressive collection,” the museum said. The Greek prime minister’s office did not respond to a request for comment from Agence France-Presse.

Several Greek governments failed to make any significant progress in the dispute over parts of the frieze. London believes that the sculptures were obtained legally. In January, the British newspaper The Times, which had been adamantly supportive of the British Museum, changed its position and spoke out in favor of returning: “Times and circumstances are changing. The sculptures belong to Athens. They must go back there now.”