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Athens Macedonian News Agency: News in English, 14-10-15

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Greece to hold off legal action on Parthenon Marbles, stick with UNESCO process

  • [01] Greece to hold off legal action on Parthenon Marbles, stick with UNESCO process

    ANA-MPA -- "We have not decided to go to a trial. We have decided to take the process at UNESCO to the end," Culture Minister Constantinos Tassoulas announced at a press conference on Wednesday, regarding the outcome of talks with a top London law firm on mounting a legal challenge for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece.

    Tassoulas said a decision was made to continue with the mediation process that has been accepted by UNESCO regarding Greece's demand for the reunification of the Parthenon sculptures, "having at our side, in addition to Greeks, also foreign legal experts for advice, such as these three distinguished lawyers."

    The press conference in the new Acropolis Museum was given after in-depth discussions with UK barristers Amal Alamuddin, a celebrity following her recent marriage to George Clooney, who came to Athens accompanied by the founder of the London-based legal firm Doughty Street Chambers where she works, Geoffrey Robertson QC, and cultural property law expert Norman Palmer QC.

    Also present at the press conference were the president of the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles David Hill and Culture Ministry General Secretary Lina Mendoni.

    The three barristers stressed that the issue of the reunification of the Marbles was a "unique case" and that their reunification was imperative. They also outlined their intentions concerning a legal bid for the sculptures' reunification.

    "The Greek government is right to ask for the return of the sculptures 200 years after their removal. It is an injustice that has lasted a very long time, an issue that is among the 10 most urgent regarding works of art. The time has come for the British Museum to return the Sculptures to Greece, while the problem can be resolved for the benefit of both peoples," Alamuddin said.

    Robertson stressed that the issue did not just concern Greece: "The Marbles are important for all the world. The fact that these sculptures are in two separate places, with 60 pct in Greece and 40 pct in Britain, is a terrible barbarity. If they are reunited, all the world will have the opportunity to see the start of civilisation."

    The British Museum could keep some works of art, such as the Egyptian mummies, but it was obliged to return the Parthenon Sculptures, he added.

    According to Tassoulas, the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee unanimously decided to recommend to the United Kingdom that it take part in the mediation process requested by Greece. In the six months given to Britain to reply, he added, Greece would receive legal advice from the Doughty Street Chambers team, as well as its own legal counsel at the ministry.

    If Britain responded to UNESCO's invitation, Robertson clarified, the mediation process would begin and "the three of us will be at the negotiating table". He pointed out, however, that the British government has so far adopted the position that this is a matter for the British Museum, which has ruled out their return.

    "Our aim is not to empty the museums but the Parthenon Sculptures are a unique case," he underlined, adding that his team was not planning any legal action at present and would only provide legal advice. At the same time, he pointed out that there were avenues, such as international courts or alternative mechanisms for settling disputes like mediation, that needed to be explored.

    "Great Britain is great because it takes international law and its decisions into account," he stressed.

    Palmer, the third member of the team, stressed that the world was changing, its laws evolving and museums needed to adapt to these changes: "If international laws change, museums must also change," he pointed out.

    All three noted changes in British law, such as Parliamentary decisions allowing the return of cultural artifacts to the Australian aborigines and others forbidding acceptance of stolen cultural treasures, stressing that if some exceptions were made then others could also exist.

    Hill also highlighted the role of Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras for his initiative in bringing the legal firm to Greece: "I want to give a big thank you to Antonis Samaras, who has taken this matter much further forward than at any time in the past." He praised the premier's bravery and stressed that Greece was not alone but had a great many friends, who would not rest until the sculptures had been returned.

    Replying to reporters' questions, Tassoulas stressed that the Greek government would do its utmost to arrive at a friendly settlement with Britain on this issue, repeating that Greece would await the completion of the UNESCO process and not proceed with legal action at this time, while continuing to look into other options.

    Prior to the press conference, the three London barristers were shown around the Acropolis Museum by its curator, the well-known archaeologist Dimitris Pantermalis.

    "The tragic part of this story is that half the frieze is what we see here and the other half is abroad," Hill had commented to Alamuddin as they stood in the third-floor gallery, where the segments of the frieze remaining in Athens are on display.

    They were accompanied by Tassoulas, Mendoni and the author Nicholas Gage, as well as a host of TV crews and photo-journalists that had earlier gathered outside for a shot of the newly wed Mrs. Clooney. The one-hour tour took in the sculptures on the lower floors, such as archaic korae that still bear traces of the pigments that decorated their originally colourful garments, before moving on to the caryatids and the Parthenon gallery.

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