Boris Johnson has informed the Greek prime minister that the problem of the Parthenon sculptures was “one for the trustees of the British Museum” throughout talks in Downing Avenue.
In a gathering in Quantity 10 on Tuesday, Kyriakos Mitsotakis pressed Mr Johnson on the long-running row over the sculptures, also called the “Elgin marbles”.
However the prime minister, regardless of telling his Greek counterpart he understood the “energy of feeling” in Greece on the problem, veered away from UK authorities accountability within the 200-year-old dispute.
Following the leaders’ talks, a Downing Avenue spokesperson stated: “Prime Minister Mitsotakis raised the problem of the Parthenon sculptures.
“The prime minister stated that he understood the energy of feeling of the Greek folks on this situation, however reiterated the UK’s longstanding place that this matter is one for the trustees of the British Museum.
“The leaders agreed that this situation by no means impacts the energy of the UK-Greece partnership.”
The stance appeared to signify a shift from Mr Johnson, who as recently as March stated it was the UK authorities’s “longstanding place” that the sculptures had been “legally acquired” by British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Lord Elgin, within the early nineteenth century and had been now “legally owned” by the British Museum’s trustees.
Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Johnson’s official spokesman had stated the possession of the sculptures was “purely for the museum” and “not one for the UK authorities”.
The 17 figures had been taken by Lord Elgin’s employees round 200 years in the past and have been the topics of a protracted dispute.
The Greek PM argues they had been “stolen” from Athens. Previous to his go to to London, Mr Mitsotakis informed the Day by day Telegraph: “They belong within the Acropolis Museum and we have to focus on this situation in earnest.”
Earlier than assembly Mr Johnson, he had additionally raised the prospect of loaning different treasures to the British Museum in return for the Parthenon sculptures.
Outlining its place on the dispute, the British Museum’s web site states that Lord Elgin’s transport of the sculptures to England occurred “with the total data and permission of the authorized authorities of the day in each Athens and London”.
It provides: “The trustees’ coverage and their willingness to contemplate loans to Athens has been made clear to the Greek authorities, however successive Greek governments have refused to contemplate borrowing or to acknowledge the trustees’ possession of the Parthenon sculptures of their care.
“This has made any significant dialogue on the problem nearly unimaginable.”
The Parthenon sculptures had been made between 447BC and 432BC and adorned the Parthenon on the Acropolis in Athens.
Lord Elgin eliminated about half of the remaining sculptures from the ruins of the Parthenon between 1801 and 1805, earlier than they entered the British Museum.