Greece launches fresh bid to reclaim Elgin marbles from Britain amid fears it is trying to use knife-edge Brexit negotiations as leverage
- Greece is renewing call for Britain to open negotiations on fate of Elgin marbles
- The Parthenon sculptures have been housed in the British Museum since 1816
- Supporters say they were legitimately purchased and should not be returned
- Fears latest demand could be linked to Brexit with negotiations on a knife edge
The Greek government has launched a fresh bid to claw back the Elgin marbles from Britain – as Brexit negotiations reach a critical stage.
Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright has been sent a letter by counterpart Lydia Koniordou urging him to open talks on the fate of the ancient statues.
The timing of the missive will spark speculation as talks with the EU over the future relationship are on a knife edge.
The Greek government will need to approve any Brexit deal, and it is also almost certain to require ratification by the country’s parliament.
Many Parthenon sculptures have been housed in the British Museum since 1816 after they were bought by the government from Lord Elgin
Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright (pictured left) has been sent a letter by counterpart Lydia Koniordou (right) urging him to open talks on the fate of the ancient statues
Greece has long campaigned for the repatriation of the marbles, but supporters insist they were purchased legitimately and have been painstakingly preserved in the UK.
There have been warnings that giving back the artefacts would trigger requests from dozens of other countries for the return of artworks in British museums.
The sculptures used to be on the Parthenon at the top of the Acropolis in Athens.
They were removed by Elgin between 1799 and 1810 after he received permission from the Ottoman empire, which ruled Greece at the time.
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Elgin claimed he was worried about damage being done to the marbles, but their removal was criticised at the time by figures including Lord Byron.
Many Parthenon sculptures have been housed in the British Museum since 1816 after they were bought by the government from Lord Elgin.
According to a House of Commons briefing paper from last year, the UK government’s position is that ‘issues relating to the ownership and management of the Parthenon sculptures are matters for the trustees of the British Museum’.
Jeremy Corbyn has said he believes the marbles should be returned to Greece.
The PIlissos statue, part of the collection of marbles from the Parthenon that are in London
The timing of the missive has sparked speculation as talks with the EU over the future relationship are on a knife edge. Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab (pictured left) was in Brussels for talks with Michel Barnier (right) yesterday
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