Diplomatic Row Erupts as UK Prime Minister Cancels Meeting with Greek Counterpart Over Parthenon Marbles Dispute

A diplomatic spat has unfolded between the United Kingdom and Greece as British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak abruptly canceled a scheduled meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in London. The disagreement stems from the long-standing dispute over the Parthenon Marbles, also known as the Elgin Marbles, ancient Greek artifacts currently housed in the British Museum.

Mitsotakis, who was in London for an official visit, had expressed the desire to discuss the repatriation of the 2,500-year-old sculptures during the meeting with Sunak.

The cancellation came after Mitsotakis, in a Sunday interview with the BBC, reiterated Greece’s call for the return of the Parthenon Marbles, likening the situation to cutting the Mona Lisa in half.

The UK government defended Sunak’s decision, stating that the Greek side had provided reassurances that the visit would not be used as a platform to rehash the Parthenon Marbles ownership issue. In response, Mitsotakis expressed deep disappointment, rejecting an alternative meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden.

The Parthenon Marbles, removed from Athens by British diplomat Lord Elgin in the 19th century, have been a source of contention for decades. Greece has repeatedly called for their permanent return, while the UK maintains that they are part of the British Museum’s permanent collection.

Despite ongoing negotiations between Greece and the British Museum, the diplomatic row has escalated, with Mitsotakis labeling the cancellation “an annoyance” and emphasizing the need for constructive dialogue on the international challenges of the moment.

The controversy highlights the broader debate over the repatriation of cultural artifacts, with the British government insisting on the legal barriers preventing the permanent return of the Parthenon Marbles. The canceled meeting has drawn attention to the intersection of politics and history, prompting commentary from both sides on the significance of the dispute.

The Greek government has expressed surprise and frustration at the cancellation, while the UK asserts the importance of the bilateral relationship beyond the Parthenon Marbles issue.

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