Greek fury: Mitsotakis fumes at Rishi after meeting CANCELLED amid row over returning Elgin Marbles


Greek fury: Mitsotakis fumes at Rishi after meeting CANCELLED amid row over returning Elgin Marbles

Holly Bishop

By Holly Bishop

Published: 28/11/2023

- 09:15

Sunak was adamant that the British Museum was the correct home for the antiquities

Rishi Sunak has sparked fury from the Greek Prime Minister after a meeting between the pair was cancelled just hours before it was due to take place amid a row over the potential return of the Elgin Marbles.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said that Sunak was adamant that the British Museum was the correct home for the antiquities.

The meeting was due to take place at 12.45pm today, however after Sunak pulled out, Deputy PM Oliver Dowden stepped in to lead the negotiations.

However, Kyriakos Mitsotakis refused the alternative meeting, telling reporters that he was “deeply disappointed by the abrupt cancellation”.

WATCH NOW: Elgin Marble Row

He said: “I express my annoyance that the British prime minister cancelled our planned meeting just hours before it was due to take place. Anyone who believes in the rightness and justice of his positions is never afraid of confronting arguments.”

His spokesman discussed the Greek PM's annoyance at the last-minute cancellation further. He said: “The prime minister is disappointed that Prime Minister Sunak cancelled their bilateral meeting at the 11th hour today.

“Greece and Britain have a very deep history of friendship and cooperation, and the Greek government is extremely surprised by this decision.

“The prime minister was looking forward to discussing a range of topics of mutual interest including the Israel/Gaza conflict, Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, climate change, as well as common challenges such as migration, and of course the Parthenon Sculptures.”

Elgin Marbles

The Greek Prime Minister wants the Elgin Marbles back


Before the meeting was meant to take place, the Greek PM said to the BBC that if Britain kept the antiquities, it would be the equivalent of cutting the Mona Lisa in half.

Sunak was understood to be “irritated” by Mitsotakis’ brutal assertation, so much so that he called off the talks, Politico has reported.

Asked if Sunak recognises that characterisation, his spokesman said: “Obviously it’s not something we would agree with.

“These were legally acquired at the time, they’re legally owned by the trustees of the museum. We support that position and there’s no plan to change the law which governs it.”

\u200bPrime Minister of Greece Kyriakos Mitsotakis  arrives at BBC Broadcasting House in London, to appear on the BBC One

Prime Minister of Greece Kyriakos Mitsotakis arriving at the BBC ahead of his interview


\u200bStarmer and Mitsotakis

Starmer and Mitsotakis met yesterday


Mitsotakis said that returning the sculptures would allow them to be appreciated “in their original setting”.

The news of the cancellation came as Mitsotakis was meeting Labour Leader Keir Starmer, who had indicated that he was open to the idea of a loan deal, as long as it was a “mutually acceptable” one.

Yet the Labour leader reportedly made clear that he had no desire to change the 1963 British Museum Act, which prevents the institution from disposing of items in its collection.

An insider told Politico that the Elgin Marbles issue was “discussed but wasn’t the focal point of the meeting”.

A Labour spokesperson said of Sunak’s decision not to meet Mitsotakis: “If the Prime Minister isn’t able to meet with a European ally with whom Britain has important economic ties, this is further proof he isn’t able to provide the serious economic leadership our country requires.”

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