Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis expressed his frustration on Monday evening following the sudden cancellation of his scheduled meeting with his British counterpart Rishi Sunak which was scheduled to take place tomorrow.
“I’d like to express my displeasure over the fact that the British prime minister cancelled our scheduled meeting only hours before it was set to occur,” Mitsotakis told reporters.
The Greek premier is in London on the occasion of a “road show” organized by the Hellenic Exchanges SA and Morgan Stanley with investors. He also appeared on a BBC program, among others.
According to Greek sources, the issue of the Parthenon Marbles, which successive governments in Athens have pressed to be returned from the British Museum, led to the cancellation by 10 Downing St.
“Greece and Britain are united by traditional ties of friendship, and the context of our bilateral ties is extremely broad…Greece’s positions on the issue of the Parthenon Friezes are well known. I had hoped to have the opportunity to discuss them with my British counterpart, along with the major challenges on the international stage at the moment, namely, Gaza, Ukraine, the climate crisis and migration,” Mitsotakis said, adding:
“Anyone who believes that their positions are right and just is never afraid of comparing arguments.”
Government sources said the Mitsotakis-Sunak meeting was scheduled for just after noon at 10 Downing St. and repeated that it was the issue of the Parthenon Marbles that led to the abrupt cancellation, while citing Sunak’s annoyance with the high-profile demand by the Mitsotakis government for their repatriation.
The same sources said the Greek side will continue to press the issue in a form of “cultural diplomacy” with the British Museum.
Mitsotakis, who is in London on a 3-day official working visit, told BBC in an interview on Sunday that “keeping the Parthenon Marbles at the British Museum is an “artistic vandalism, akin to cutting the Mona Lisa in half”.
Responding to where the friezes would look better, he said: “I think the answer is very clear. They do look better in the Acropolis Museum, a state-of-the-art museum that was built for that purpose.”
Reax by main opposition leader
The cancelled meeting also generated a reaction by the newly elected president of Greece’s main opposition party, Stefanos Kasselakis, who called it “unacceptable”.
“The Parthenon Marbles issue is above the individual that is Greek Prime Minister at any given time and whatever political party disputes,” the SYRIZA party president emphasized.