Greek officials are furious following the British Museum’s decision to loan one of the Parthenon sculptures to Russia. The Greek Prime Minister characterised the move as provocative and sttated that this decision stripped the British museum of one of its long standing arguments against reunification:
The last British dogma about immovability has ceased to exist … the Parthenon and its sculptures were the object of pillage. We Greeks are identified with our history and culture which cannot be torn apart, loaned and ceded.
Ms Elena Korka, member of the Hellenic Advisory Committe for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures and a senior culture ministry policymaker involved in restitution efforts since 1986, also condemned the loan:
[The loan is] appalling, no one had any idea whatsoever … For so many years they have argued that the sculptures could not be moved. At the end of the day this will turn against them … It’s a change of attitude. Now that they have taken this decision, they can pack up the rest and bring them here where the climate suits them and where they belong. And when the [two-month] exhibition at the Hermitage is over they can bring the Ilissos over too.
The British Museum has always claimed that Greece has connsistently refused to discuss the possibility of a loan of the sculptures to Athens. Ms Korka denies this:
We have never said ‘never’ to anything. We have said, so many times, we are open to mediation and that means we are open to loans as well.
The loan has not only enraged Greek officials but also reunification campaigners from the global community. The Chairman of the IARPS, Mr David Hill claimed that :
It is not just rude, provocative and arrogant, it is a highly offensive thing to do when Britain has completely ignored a Greek request to mediate this issue through Unesco. For the best part of 18 months Unesco has been waiting for a reply The only thing this will do is aggravate the situation. It’s extremely inflammatory.
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