CRETE –Rishi Sunak caused an uproar on Greek social media and within its parliament after canceling a meeting with its Greek counterpart at the 11th hour, declaring that the Elgin Marbles were “in the right place”.
Scottish nobleman Lord Elgin removed the Parthenon sculptures from the Acropolis in 1801 and they are currently in the British Museum.
Mr Sunak canceled Tuesday meeting in London after Mr. Mitsotakis compared the separation of the sculptures to the cutting of Mona Lisa in two in an interview with the BBC. The British prime minister’s office said both sides had previously agreed that the deal should not be used as a public platform “to revive issues that have been settled for a very long time.”
Mr Sunak’s contempt for Kyriacos Mitsotakis has angered Greeks, who say the appropriation of Elgin was illegal because the country was under Turkish occupation at the time.
“We were under foreign rule, the Ottoman Turks dominated us,” said Mixalis Spyridakis of Athens, who was visiting the British Museum at the time and walked out in protest when he heard the news.
“It’s like saying that the Nazis have the right to keep the objects they stole from countries during the Second World War,” adds the 40-year-old doctor.
Despite ongoing disputes over the return of the 17 marble sculptures, which were part of a frieze that once decorated the 2,500-year-old Parthenon, Greece and Britain traditionally have strong ties.
King Charles III was born on the island of Corfu, the romantic poet Lord Byron gave his life for the Greek revolution and even Sir Winston Churchill was a fan of the “heroic Greeks”.
The problem may be considered minor in the UK, but for Greeks it is a matter of national pride, said Georgios Kaloutsakis, owner of a luxury resort, Abaton Island.
“For Greece, these objects are not just historical treasures but also symbols of cultural identity,” said the Cretan businessman. I.
“At a time when nations are grappling with the legacy of their colonial past(s), the return of the Parthenon sculptures could be a powerful gesture of goodwill and respect for (our) heritage cultural.”
Amid growing condemnation of what is seen as British imperialism – and even rumors of a boycott of British goods until the problem is resolved – Greek politicians have unanimously condemned Mr Sunak’s snub.
Greek government spokesman Pavlos Marinakis told Skai TV that Mr Sunak’s behavior was “not only disrespectful to the Greek prime minister but also to the Greek people”.
The leader of the left-wing Syriza party, Stefanos Kasselakis – whose status as Greece’s first openly gay party leader has caused some repercussions – said Mr Sunak’s decision to cancel the meeting was “unacceptable”.
“The case of the Parthenon sculptures is an issue that goes beyond confrontations between Greek prime ministers and parties… (it is a) moral issue regarding the brazen theft of cultural riches from their natural environment,” he said. declared the leader of Syriza in a tweet. .
The Greek Prime Minister met the leader of the opposition Labor Party during his visit to London. Sir Keir Starmer has said he would not oppose a deal between the British Museum and the Greek government for the return of the marbles.
According to a recent YouGov poll carried out on behalf of the Parthenon Project, an organization set up to promote cultural cooperation between the two countries, 64 percent of Britons favor restitution and only 21 percent oppose it.