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Diplomatic spat over the Parthenon Marbles scuttles meeting of British and Greek leaders

LONDON (AP) – Diplomatic skirmishes broke out between Greece and Britain on Monday after Britain canceled a planned meeting between the two leaders, with the Greek prime minister saying the He accused the British Prime Minister of trying to avoid a discussion about marble.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is in London and was scheduled to meet with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at 10 Downing Street on Tuesday. He was scheduled to raise Greece’s decades-old demand for the return of ancient sculptures from the British Museum.

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Mitsotakis issued a statement late Monday saying he “expresses regret at the fact that the British Prime Minister canceled a scheduled meeting just hours before it was scheduled to take place.”

Mitsotakis said: “Greece and the UK are bound by traditional ties of friendship and the scope of our relationship is very wide.” “Greece’s position on the issue of the Parthenon sculpture is well known and I would like the opportunity to discuss this with my UK counterpart, along with the current major international challenges such as Gaza, Ukraine, climate change and migration. Our positions are well-founded and we are never afraid to engage in debate.”

Britain confirmed that the two leaders would not meet and that Mr Mitsotakis would instead meet with Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden.

Athens has long demanded the return of the sculpture, which was taken from Greece by British diplomat Lord Elgin in the early 19th century. These sculptures originally adorned his 2,500-year-old Parthenon on the Acropolis, and have been on display at the British Museum in London for more than two centuries.

About half of the surviving marble works are in London, and the rest are housed in a purpose-built museum beneath the Acropolis in Athens. Appearing on British television on Sunday, Mitsotakis compared separating the sculpture to cutting the Mona Lisa in half, a comment that angered the British government.

The British Museum is prohibited by law from returning the sculpture to Greece, but its leaders are in talks with Greek officials about a compromise, including a long-term loan.

But a spokesman for Mr Sunak was firm on Monday, saying the British government had “no plans to change our approach and certainly we believe that a museum (in the UK) is the appropriate place to house the marbles.” I took it.

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“These were legally acquired at the time and are legally owned by the museum’s management. We support that position and have no plans to change the law governing it.” said Max Brain.

“We have looked after the marble for generations and it is our position that we want that to continue.”

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