(MENAFN) Diplomatic tensions between the United Kingdom and Greece have heightened as British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak accused his Greek counterpart, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, of politicizing a longstanding dispute over Greek antiquities held in United Kingdom museums. During a contentious Prime Minister's Questions in the United Kingdom Parliament, Sunak defended his decision to cancel a meeting with Mitsotakis, alleging that the Greek leader had reneged on an agreement not to focus on the return of the 5th-century antiquities, commonly known as the Elgin Marbles.
Sunak stated, "When it was clear that the purpose of the meeting was not to discuss substantive issues of the future but rather to grandstand and relitigate issues of the past, it was inappropriate." The cancellation of the meeting followed Downing Street's assertion that Mitsotakis violated an earlier promise to avoid addressing the decades-old dispute, referencing a recent interview in which he advocated for the marbles' return.
Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni responded by criticizing London for "barbarism," asserting that the sculptures were the result of theft. She vowed to engage with the British Museum, where the Elgin Marbles are currently housed. The diplomatic spat has raised questions about the handling of historical artifacts and the broader implications for United Kingdom-Greece relations.
Labour leader Keir Starmer also weighed in on the dispute, quipping, "Never mind the British Museum, it's the prime minister who has obviously lost his marbles." Starmer, who met with Mitsotakis prior to the canceled meeting, defended Greece as "a fellow NATO member, an economic ally, one of our most important partners in tackling illegal immigration." As both nations navigate the fallout from this diplomatic disagreement, the incident underscores the complexities surrounding cultural heritage and international relations.
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