The international campaign promoting the return of the Parthenon marbles to Greece has had a set back when both the British Museum and the UK Government refused to attend talks with Unesco last month.
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey explained that they believed the Greek call for mediation was just another way of saying return. “We have seen nothing to suggest that Greece’s purpose in seeking mediation on this issue is anything other than to achieve the permanent transfer of the Parthenon sculptures now in the British Museum to Greece and on terms that would deny the British Museum’s right of ownership;” Mr Vaisey stated. The sculptures were legally acquired by UK ambassador Lord Elgin “under the laws pertaining at the time and the trustees of the British Museum have had clear legal title to the sculptures since 1816.
Andrew George, the chairman of Marbles Reunited, which lobbies for the return of the marbles to Athens, said: “If the Government and the British Museum are so confident about the rightness of their case, they would be happy to engage in mediation. I will appeal to the new government to review its decision; a decision which has brought shame on this country. We can still redeem ourselves by engaging in a gracious act and through the route of Unesco mediation.”
Nicos Xydakis the Greek Culture Minister said the dispute was between nations, not museums. Unesco, through its Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property, asked the UK in August 2013 to consider Greece’s request that it mediate in the dispute over the sculptures – and repeated the suggestion last year. The surviving sculptures are divided equally between London and Athens