LONDON — British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak escalated his confrontation with the chief of Greece on Wednesday, accusing Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of making an attempt to “grandstand” over the disputed Parthenon Marbles and breaking a promise to the U.Ok. authorities.
Mitsotakis, in the meantime, mentioned the dispute had helped draw worldwide consideration to Greece’s longstanding declare to the artifacts, a part of a 2,500-year-old frieze that was taken from Athens within the early nineteenth century by British diplomat Lord Elgin. The artifacts are on show within the British Museum.
The 2 European allies with center-right governments have been at loggerheads since Monday, when Sunak known as off a scheduled assembly with Mitsotakis hours earlier than it was on account of begin.
In the course of the British prime minister’s weekly query interval within the Home of Commons on Wednesday, Sunak mentioned “it was clear that the aim of the assembly was to not focus on substantive points for the long run, however fairly to grandstand and relitigate problems with the previous.”
Greece and the UK have a long-running dispute over the Parthenon Marbles. Athens desires them returned to allow them to be displayed alongside the remainder of the Parthenon sculptures at a purpose-built museum in Athens.
British officers have been irritated that Mitsotakis appeared on British tv Sunday and in contrast the elimination of the sculptures from Athens to chopping Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” in half.
Sunak mentioned Mitsotakis had reneged on a promise to not discuss publicly concerning the marbles throughout his go to.
“Particular assurances on that matter have been made to this nation after which have been damaged,” Sunak mentioned. “When individuals make commitments, they need to preserve them.”
Greece denied any such promise was made. The Greek authorities declined to remark additional Wednesday.
“Within the spirit of the great longstanding relations between the 2 nations, which we intend to protect, we’ve got nothing extra so as to add on this matter,” it mentioned.
Talking earlier than Sunak’s newest feedback, Mitsotakis mentioned he thought the spat “is not going to have an effect on Greek-British relations in the long run.”
“There was a constructive facet to the cancellation of this assembly, that it gained much more publicity … (for) the truthful request of Greece for the reunification of the sculptures of the Parthenon,” he mentioned in Athens.
Critics questioned Sunak’s motivation for stirring up a battle with Greece. Since taking workplace 13 months in the past, he has smoothed relations with the European Union and its member nations after years of acrimony over Brexit.
Athens officers have pointed to the Conservative Occasion’s poor opinion ballot rankings and Sunak’s lengthy checklist of home woes, together with a stagnant financial system and an unmet promise to cease migrants reaching the U.Ok. throughout the English Channel in small boats.
Opinion surveys recommend British voters don’t care strongly concerning the marbles and produce other priorities, akin to the price of residing and the overstretched Nationwide Well being Service.
The chief of the U.Ok. opposition Labour Occasion, Keir Starmer, met with Mitsotakis in London on Monday. Starmer requested why Sunak was making an attempt to “humiliate” the Greek chief.
“I mentioned with the Greek prime minister the financial system, safety, immigration,” Starmer mentioned. “I additionally instructed him we wouldn’t change the legislation relating to the Marbles. It’s not that troublesome, prime minister.”
Related Press writers Nicholas Paphitis and Derek Gatopoulos in Athens contributed to this report.