Parthenon Marbles: “Greece should recognise UK’s ownership of before loan” says Frazer

23 May, 2024

Culture Minister Lucy Frazer has taken a different approach, from the one the British have advocated so far, on the issue of the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece.

Part of friezes that adorned the 2,500-year-old Parthenon temple on the Acropolis, have been displayed at the British Museum in London for more than 200 years following the removal by Lord Elgin, when he was British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, in the early 19th Century.

Specifically, Ms Frazer, in response to a question from the Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, said: “My view is that there are only certain circumstances in which you can transfer objects.

The trustees of the British Museum are responsible for the marbles, they were acquired legally and we have no intention of changing the law in relation to these matters. Objects are loaned from time to time, but it is fundamental that our ownership is recognised,” the minister said initially, and when asked if she would support the loan of the marbles, she said:

“They were legally acquired, so they belong to us.”

“I think it is very important that the Greek government recognise that these objects belong and have been legally acquired”. Essentially, this new version requires Greece to first “recognise” that the “Elgin Marbles”, as Ms Fraser called them, belong to the United Kingdom and then they should be loaned to Greece. This had not been a basic requirement so far by the British Museum, and even Rishi Shunak had different types of objections around the Greek request.

The British Museum’s approach

George Osborne, the chairman of the British Museum trustees and former Chancellor, is reportedly in talks to return the items, and has previously stated there is a “deal to be done” with Greece to share the artefacts.

Ms Frazer told MPs that she rejected reports that the Government had anything to do with Arts Council England (ACE) warning artists about making “political statements” following the body u-turning on the advice.

British media states that Greece has been demanding the return of the Parthenon Marbles for decades, claiming their illegal acquisition during the Ottoman period – something the UK government rejects.

Gerapetritis’ contacts with Osborne

At the same time, the issue has been taken up by Foreign Minister George Gerapetritis. The head of Greek diplomacy has been personally involved while he was Minister of State, having initiated discussions with the Director of the British Museum, George Osborne, with whom he has built a relationship of mutual respect and trust with the British official to help towards finding a solution.

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