British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has accused his Greek counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis of public “grandstanding” over the ownership of Parthenon sculptures.
The two leaders have been at odds with one another after Sunak canceled a scheduled meeting between the two just hours before it was set to take place.
In a weekly question period with the house of commons, Sunak told parliament that Mitsotakis had broken a promise that he would not publicly bring up the sculptures.
“Specific assurances on that topic were made to this country and then were broken,” Sunak said. “When people make commitments, they should keep them.”
Greek officials denied that any such promise had been made.
In an interview with British television on Sunday, Mitsotakis called for the return of the sculptures so they could be displayed beside the rest of the sculptures still in Athens. He also said that removing them was like cutting the “Mona Lisa” in half.
Athens has long urged the British Museum to return 2,500-year-old sculptures, known in Britain as the Elgin Marbles. The Marbles were taken from the Parthenon temple by British diplomat Lord Elgin in 1806, when Greece was under Ottoman Turkish rule.
Greek officials have said Mitsotakis only promoted a longstanding position, and he called Sunak’s cancelation of the meeting disrespectful.
Mitsotakis said the cancelation was “an unfortunate event,” but he added that “the move will not hurt relations between Greece and Britain in the longer term.”
The Greek leader also went on to say the cancelation of the meeting had a positive side to it and that his calls for reunification of the sculptures have gained more attention.
Some information in this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.