Greek Prime Minister: ‘It’s like cutting the Mona Lisa in two’
Britain demands return of Parthenon pieces taken away
Excited snack announces summit cancellation
Offer to meet with Greek Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister… British media continues to criticize “insulting the other party”
The issue of the return of the ‘Parthenon Marbles’, marble statues that Britain removed from the Parthenon Temple in Athens, Greece in the 19th century, has escalated into a war of nerves between the leaders of the two countries. Just before the summit, when Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis called for the return of the statue, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak suddenly canceled the meeting. Amid continued requests for the return of foreign relics brought in through trade or plunder during the imperialist era, some even point out that Prime Minister Sunnack insulted Prime Minister Mitsotakis, jeopardizing Britain’s international standing.
The leaders of Britain and Greece were scheduled to meet in London on November 28. However, Prime Minister Mitsotakis asked about the issue of returning the Parthenon Marbles in an interview with the BBC on the 26th, two days ago, saying, “To use an analogy, the ‘Mona Lisa’ at the Louvre Museum in France is cut in half and half is on display in the UK.” This started with his statement, “It must be returned to its original place.”
Prime Minister Sunnack, who was known to be enraged by this remark, notified Greece of the cancellation of the meeting on the night of the 27th, the day before the meeting. The British Prime Minister’s Office said, “This is because Greece violated the agreement not to bring up the issue of returning the statue at this meeting,” but the Greek side denied the existence of the agreement itself.
Britain proposed a meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister to Greece on the 28th, but it was rejected. The Greek government said, “It is rude to suddenly cancel the meeting,” but added, “However, we do not want the dispute with Sunak (Prime Minister) to ruin the mutually beneficial relationship between the two countries.” Regarding the cancellation of the summit, Prime Minister Sunnack explained to the National Assembly on the 29th, “It was clear that (Greece’s) intention was to raise issues about past history rather than discuss substantive agendas for the future at the meeting,” but his actions are being criticized.
The British daily Telegraph said in an editorial that day, “I think the statue should stay in the UK. However, Prime Minister Sunnack was able to express his position without diplomatic friction,” he pointed out. The Financial Times (FT) also criticized in an editorial on the same day, “Despite the diplomatic situation after leaving the European Union (EU), Sunnack insulted Greece and undermined Britain’s status in Europe and the world.”
Prime Minister Mitsotakis said in a local media interview, “There is a positive side to canceling this meeting. “Greece’s legitimate request for the return of the statue has become more widely known to world public opinion,” he said.
The Parthenon Marbles, along with the Egyptian Rosetta Stone, are part of the British Museum’s representative collection. These statues depict major scenes from Greek mythology installed on the outer wall of the Parthenon Temple, and most are believed to have been created around the 5th century BC.
They are also called ‘Elgin Marbles’ as they were brought to England by Sir Thomas Bruce Elgin, who was the British Ambassador to Greece from 1801 to 1812 when Greece was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. It was reported that 33 of the 70 statues that had endured for over 2,300 years without breaking at the time were removed.
Lord Elgin intended to keep these statues in his mansion, saying, “I brought them to preserve (noble relics),” but when his finances ran out due to his divorce from his wife, he offered to sell them to the government. Famous poet George Byron and others opposed the government purchase at the time, calling it “vandalism.”
However, the British Parliament judged that “Lord Elgin obtained a legal permit from the Ottoman Empire” and approved the purchase, and in 1816, the British government purchased it for 35,000 pounds (current value approximately 2.5 million pounds, approximately 4.1 billion won). It was put on display at the British Museum from the following year.
Greece, which became independent from the Ottoman Empire in 1832, believed that Lord Elgin had stolen the statues and requested their return in 1835. However, the British Museum claimed that it first received an official return request from Greece in 1983.
Mark Jones is a world traveler and journalist for News Rebeat. With a curious mind and a love of adventure, Mark brings a unique perspective to the latest global events and provides in-depth and thought-provoking coverage of the world at large.