Greece opts for diplomatic route in seeking return of Elgin Marbles

View of British Museum exhibition of Elgin Marbles. Copyright Andrew Dunn, 5 December 2004, courtesy Wikipedia Creative Commons.

ATHENS (AFP) – Greece will not seek to settle a decades-old dispute with the British Museum over the Parthenon sculptures in court, the culture minister said on Wednesday.

“One cannot go to court over whichever issue and besides, in international courts the outcome is uncertain,” Culture Minister Nikos Xydakis told Mega TV.

Instead, Athens would follow a “diplomatic and political” approach, Xydakis said, arguing that the climate was slowly changing in Greece’s favor.

The Parthenon sculptures are part of the collection popularly known as the Elgin Marbles, which were acquired by Lord Elgin in the early 1800s when he was ambassador to the Ottoman court. The British parliament purchased the art treasures in 1816 and gave them to the British Museum.

For the past 30 years Athens has been demanding the return of the sculptures, which had decorated the Parthenon temple on the Acropolis in Athens from ancient times.

The British Museum recently turned down a proposal by UNESCO, the UN cultural agency, to mediate in the dispute.

According to Greek reports, a legal recourse had been suggested by lawyer Amal Alamuddin Clooney, the wife of actor George Clooney, who is part of a team advising the Greek campaign.