The British Museum finalizes an agreement for the return to Greece of the Parthenon marbles

The Parthenon Marbles could “soon” be handed over to Greece as part of a long-term loan being finalized between the British Museum and Athens. Greece explains on Monday that the negotiations “are not easy”.

According to The Telegraphthe president of the museum and former British finance minister George Osborne is in the process of concluding an agreement with Athens for the return to Greece of these treasures, within the framework of a “cultural exchange” which would make it possible to circumvent a British law preventing the London museum to dismantle its collection.

“We have already said publicly that we are actively seeking a new partnership regarding the Parthenon with our friends in Greece and as we enter a new year discussions are ongoing,” a British Museum spokesperson said last week. .

On Monday, the spokesman for the Greek government admitted that the negotiations “are not easy”. “We have come a long way, we have taken steps (forward) and the efforts continue,” he said during a press briefing, without giving concrete details on their content.

>> The report in the JT of France 2:

Open question for decades

Since the beginning of the 20th century, Greece has officially requested the restitution, without success, of a 75-meter frieze detached from the Parthenon, as well as of one of the famous caryatids from the Erechtheion, a small ancient temple also on the rock of the Acropolis, both masterpieces of the British Museum.

The UK claims the sculptures were “legally acquired” in 1802 by British diplomat Lord Elgin who sold them to the British Museum. But Greece maintains that they were the object of “looting” while the country was under Ottoman occupation.

The agreement negotiated between the museum and Greece would be, according to the sources quoted by The Telegraph, a loan agreement so that the frieze returns to Greece quickly. But this “gesture” would not end the quarrel, Athens intending to continue to demand full restitution.

Greek media had already reported in December that secret negotiations had been going on for a year between George Osborne and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. The British government then recalled that the British Museum was subject to a 1963 law which prevents it from transferring or selling objects from its collection, except under very limited conditions.

>> Read also: Return – Who owns museum collections?

Three fragments returned by the pope

In mid-December, Pope Francis “decided to donate to His Beatitude Hieronymus II, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, the three fragments of the Parthenon carefully preserved for centuries in the pontifical collections and the Vatican Museums” , the Vatican said in a statement.

This gesture, the date of which has not been specified, was decided “as a concrete sign of the sincere desire to pursue the ecumenical path of witness to the truth”. According to Vatican News, the official Vatican information site, these are three marble fragments that arrived in Rome in the 19th century through unknown routes. They represent a horse’s head, the face of a young boy and a bearded male head.

The Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports welcomed in a press release this restitution, considering that it underlined “the spiritual and fraternal character of the papal gesture towards the Orthodox Church of Greece”.

>> The three fragments of the Parthenon returned by the pope:

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The British Museum finalizes an agreement for the return to Greece of the Parthenon marbles