Greek leader, in London, seeks return of ancient sculptures

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has held talks with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis amid a renewed push by Athens for the return of marble statues that once stood in the Parthenon

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson held talks with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in London on Tuesday amid a renewed push by Athens for the return of marble statues that once stood in the Parthenon.

The Greek government said Mitsotakis planned to raise the issue of the sculptures, which were removed from the ancient temple in Athens more than 200 years ago and are held in the British Museum.

The marbles — 17 figures and part of a frieze that decorated the 2,500-year-old Acropolis monument — were taken by Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, in the early 19th century.

Britain maintains that Elgin acquired the sculptures legally when Greece was ruled by the Ottomans. The Greek government says they were stolen and wants them returned for display in the new Acropolis Museum that opened in 2009.

Mitsotakis told Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper last week that “the marbles were stolen in the 19th century, they belong in the Acropolis Museum and we need to discuss this issue in earnest.”

The British government said Tuesday that it has no say in the matter.

“The possession of the marbles is a matter purely for the museum,” Johnson spokesman Max Blain said. “It is not one for the U.K. government.”

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