01/24/2016 - UK News: UK rejects mediation in dispute of the Elgin Marbles with Greece.

The UK government and British Museum have turned down an offer of mediation from the UN's cultural organisation in the dispute of the Elgin Marbles with Greece.

Campaigners for the return of the Parthenon sculptures to Greece have been left disappointed at the replies sent from London to Unesco last month.

British ministers said they believed the Greek call for "mediation" was intended simply to secure the return of the Marbles to Athens.

Unesco, through its Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property, asked the UK in August 2013 to consider Greece's request that it mediate in the dispute over the sculptures - and formally invited Britain to accept mediation last October.

Culture Minister Nicos Xydakis insisted the dispute was between nations, not museums and criticised British "negativity'.

The sculptures have been in the British Museum since the early 19th Century but Greece has been demanding their return for decades

Writing to Unesco, Culture Minister Ed Vaizey and Europe Minister David Lidington wrote: "We have seen nothing to suggest that Greece's purpose in seeking mediation on this issue is anything other than to achieve the permanent transfer of the Parthenon sculptures now in the British Museum to Greece and on terms that would deny the British Museum's right of ownership."

Eddie O'Hara, chairman of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles, called the British reply a "sophisticated diversionary tactic" but said it would not "divert the public's thirst to see the sculptures from the Parthenon reunited in the Acropolis Museum".

Writing on the same day to Unesco, Sir Richard Lambert, chairman of the British Museum's trustees, said that the museum "would wish always to align itself with Unesco's purposes in the preservation and safeguarding of the world's endangered cultural heritage".

He wrote: "However, the surviving Parthenon Sculptures, carefully preserved in a number of European museums, clearly do not fall into this category."

"The trustees of the British Museum hold them not only for the British people, but for the benefit of the world public."

The best way forward, he said, was for the British Museum "to collaborate directly with other museums and cultural institutions, not just in Greece but across the world".

He cited the recent loan of the statue of the god Ilissos, one of the Elgin Marbles, to the Hermitage museum in St Petersburg, and loans of objects to museums in Greece.

Greece wants the Parthenon sculptures in London to be permanently displayed in the specially designed Acropolis Museum in Athens.



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