Financial Times wrote: UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was embroiled in a deepening diplomatic dispute with Athens on Tuesday after he snubbed his Greek counterpart in a spat over the so-called Elgin Marbles.
Downing Street said Sunak abruptly cancelled a meeting with Kyriakos Mitsotakis because the Greek prime minister reneged on a promise not to use his visit to London to publicly demand the return of the Parthenon Sculptures.
But Athens denied any such undertaking was given and diplomats expressed amazement that Sunak had offended a centre-right politician and key Nato ally. The opposition Labour party called the move “pathetic”.
Sunak’s spokesperson said on Tuesday that Mitsotakis had given an assurance he would not use his visit as “a public platform” to call for the return of the 2,500-year-old sculptures from the British Museum to Athens.
“These assurances were not adhered to,” the spokesperson said, referring to a BBC interview on Sunday in which Mitsotakis compared the removal of the marbles from the Parthenon to cutting “the Mona Lisa in half”.
Downing Street said Sunak felt it would “not be productive to have a meeting dominated by that issue”. Mitsotakis refused the offer of an alternative meeting with Oliver Dowden, the deputy prime minister.
The move caused anger in Greece. A government official in Athens said the British had asked for the question of the marbles not to be turned into a “huge issue” but insisted: “There was never any agreement on what we would say or not say publicly.”
Pavlos Marinakis, a spokesperson for the Greek government, told Skai TV on Tuesday that “Britain’s attitude shows no respect for the prime minister and our country”.
A Labour party spokesperson said Sunak’s snub of Mitsotakis was “pathetic”. “To pick a fight with a Nato ally for the sake of a headline shows just how weak Rishi Sunak is.”
Mitsotakis met Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer on Monday. Some Tories believe that Sunak was aggrieved the Greek prime minister had met the opposition leader.
Downing Street denied this and Athens pointed out that the meeting between Mitsotakis and Starmer was well signalled in advance.
Starmer indicated to Mitsotakis that he would not “stand in the way” of a mooted loan deal between the British Museum and Athens that would see part of the Parthenon Sculptures loaned to the Acropolis Museum.
Mitsotakis is demanding the full restitution of the entire frieze but George Osborne, former Tory chancellor and chair of the British Museum, has vowed to try to reach a compromise loan deal with Athens.
Sunak has now made clear his opposition to such a compromise. “We do think it’s a slippery slope,” Downing Street said. “It’s not something we would support.”
A Tory official suggested Starmer was being “reckless” in supporting any sort of negotiation between the British Museum and Athens.
Lord Peter Ricketts, former permanent secretary at the Foreign Office, said he was “puzzled and surprised” by the episode, including the unusual move by Sunak to offer to substitute his deputy.
Leaders “spend their life talking to people who they have disagreements with” and the division over the sculptures was well known, Ricketts said.
His advice would have been that the “right thing” would be to hold the meeting, acknowledge the differences over the marbles “courteously” at the start and then move on to the “pressing issues” of the day, including migration and the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Lord Kim Darroch, the former UK ambassador to Washington, said Sunak’s reaction was “over the top”. He added: “Generations of British ministers have sat stoically through Greek ministers lobbying for the return of the Elgin Marbles and not given an inch in reply.”
A European official said the timing and abruptness with which Sunak cancelled the meeting was “inelegant”, adding that offering a meeting with his deputy was “quite offensive”.
A former Tory cabinet minister said: “There is no explanation other than petulance and a complete lack of strategic direction.”
Sunak claims the Greek PM promised not to talk about the Parthenon Marbles. He spoke to the BBC about it, so "I had to insult him".
The idea that a Greek PM would come to London and not talk about the Parthenon Marbles is quite
So Greek analysts calculate 2 motives behind Sunak's move:
1) He is using an ally to score points with the far-right idiots in the country.
2) He is also Erdogan's plaything.
Read more here:
https://www.ekathimerini.com/news/12259 ... motivated/
https://www.ekathimerini.com/news/12259 ... n-marbles/
Anyhow, the UK was hoping that Greece would help them with a migration deal akin to the one they had in the EU for illegal migrants!
This is all bye bye now!
So Sunak managed to provide even more publicity for the Parthenon Marbles issue. More publicity on his own political weakness and more publicity on the UK's pariah status in Europe as a whole.
And for nothing!
...take your common sense with you, and leave your prejudices behind...