UNESCO has once again called on Greece and the UK to intensify efforts to resolve the long-standing dispute concerning the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Athens, announced the Greek Culture Ministry this week, citing the conclusion of the 23rd session in Paris of the Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in Case of Illicit Appropriation (ICPRCP).
Last week, the UK expressed the willingness to sit at the table with Greece to discuss the return of the 2,500-year-old sculptures which once adorned the Parthenon facade on the Acropolis, an UNESCO World Heritage site, were illegally removed by Lord Elgin in the 1800s and sold to the museum.
Under the committee conclusions, UNESCO recognizes the importance of initiating dialogue between the two sides at the level of culture ministers in the near future and calls on both sides to intensify their efforts to resolve the dispute, taking into account the historical, cultural, legal and moral dimensions of the issue.
“Greece welcomes the Recommendation of the 23rd UNESCO Intergovernmental Commission and is ready to enter into an honest and bona fide dialogue with the United Kingdom, taking into account its historical, cultural, legal and moral dimensions of the issue,” said Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni.
The minister referred to the agreement between Greece and Sicily for the permanent return of the Fagan fragment to Athens, which she said demonstrates that “there are solutions even to very difficult issues”.
The ICPRCP adopted its recommendation, which among others refers to previous Committee Recommendations and Decisions; expressed deep concern at the fact that the resolution of the issue remains pending for such a long time; and refered to a recent bilateral meeting between the prime ministers of Greece and the UK during which the issue was raised.
In the meantime, The Guardian on Sunday reported that the British Museum’s deputy director, Jonathan Williams, told the committee meeting that “much of the [Parthenon] frieze was in fact removed from the rubble around the Parthenon. … These objects were not all hacked from the building as has been suggested.”
Despite the rising pressure on the UK to return the illegally obtained items and evidence provided by committees for the repatriation of the Parthenon Marbles, the British Museum continues to refute the facts.
On Sunday, Mendoni commented on the issue in a statement to the Guardian. “Over the years, Greek authorities and the international scientific community have demonstrated with unshakeable arguments the true events surrounding the removal of the Parthenon sculptures. Lord Elgin used illicit and inequitable means to seize and export the Parthenon sculptures, without real legal permission to do so, in a blatant act of serial theft.”