June 13, 2024

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Rishi Sunak snubs Greek PM in dispute over Elgin Marbles

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Rishi Sunak, the UK prime minister, has delivered a snub to his Greek counterpart in a dispute over the future of the so-called Elgin Marbles, amid signs the fate of the 2,500-year-old carvings is again about to become a hot British political issue.

Downing Street on Monday night told Kyriakos Mitsotakis that Sunak would no longer meet him in Number 10 on Tuesday — an event that had already been announced by the Greek prime minister’s office.

A senior Conservative source said the meeting was cancelled because of “commentary” ahead of the event. Mitsotakis said having the frieze in London was like having the Mona Lisa “cut in half”. 

Mitsotakis, who has publicly called for the return of the entire frieze to Athens for several years, was stunned by the snub. Sunak suggested he might want to meet Oliver Dowden, the UK deputy prime minister, instead.

“I express my dismay that the British prime minister cancelled our scheduled meeting just hours before it was due to take place,” the Greek leader wrote on the social media site X.

“Anyone who believes in the correctness and justice of their positions is never afraid of opposing arguments.”

Among the plans being discussed has been a possible loan deal that could lead to part of the sculptures being sent from the British Museum to Athens.

Sunak wants to present himself as a defender of the Parthenon Sculptures, displayed at the British Museum, while portraying Sir Keir Starmer, the opposition Labour leader, as someone who is prepared to give them up.

The Financial Times last week revealed Starmer would not stand in the way of such a deal if he became prime minister, if it was mutually acceptable to both sides. Starmer went ahead with the Mitsotakis meeting on Monday, posting a picture of them shaking hands on X.

Referring to the planned Sunak-Mitsotakis encounter, a senior…

2023-11-27 16:44:22

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