Diplomatic éclat over Parthenon sculptures

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak cancelled a meeting with his Greek counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis in London at very short notice after the latter called in a BBC interview for the sculptures from the Parthenon frieze which are on exhibition at the British Museum to be returned to Greece. Commentators see blame for the diplomatic spat on both sides.

The Independent (GB) /

Huffy PM making a fool of himself

Rishi Sunak’s conduct casts doubt on his competence as a statesman, says The Independent:

“The prime minister must have thought that it would make him look good to get into a childish row with a Nato ally. ... No one outside No 10 can understand it. Why wouldn’t you welcome Mitsotakis to Downing Street, say that you had a constructive discussion and that you disagreed about the stones? Why wouldn’t you look forward to working with him on the shared problems of illegal migration?”

John Rentoul
The Daily Telegraph (GB) /

Clarify London’s position

Clear words without insult would have been better, says The Daily Telegraph:

“Mr Sunak, in our view, rightly believes the sculptures should stay in London. There is, perhaps, some confusion in Athens about current British policy. Boris Johnson had once been in favour of the repatriation of the sculptures ... but changed his mind. The Museum’s chairman George Osborne, former chancellor of the exchequer, has been exploring the possibility of a loan of the Marbles to Athens. But few believe that this would be a temporary measure. Mr Sunak could have taken the opportunity to spell out his position without a diplomatic breach.”

Efimerida ton Syntakton (GR) /

Counterproductive stance in Athens

Efimerida ton Syntakton takes the Mitsotakis government to task:

“We don’t know whether the issue of the Parthenon sculptures and Mitsotakis’ statements in the interview were the sole reasons for the cancellation of the meeting. Or whether Mr Sunak, known for being capricious and under pressure from low poll ratings, decided to flatter his own ultra-conservative audience. ... But we do know that the Greek side has led the issue to a dead end for the time being. The government’s approach undermines all the progress made so far in international forums, organisations, conferences, academic and diplomatic channels.”

Vasiliki Tzevelekou
Phileleftheros (CY) /

Time for a new initiative

Greece should seize this opportunity, Phileleftheros urges:

“The British side has maintained over time that no ancient treasures can be returned because this would lead it down a ‘dangerous and slippery slope’. ... In other words, other nations could start asking for their art treasures, too! This logic is incomprehensible to us. The British prime minister’s faux pas therefore offers Greece a great opportunity to take up the issue again and enlist the help of international organisations for a new initiative aimed at the return of the stolen Parthenon sculptures. A large proportion of Britons are in favour of them being returned because they understand that their country should not keep stolen art treasures.”