STATEMENT FROM CHAIR OF THE INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE REUNIFICATION OF THE PARTHENON SCULPTURES
05 December 2014
The International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures* today criticized the British Museum’s decision to send a major sculpture from the Parthenon as a loan to Russia.
The Chairman of the International Association said the loan was an offence not only to the Greek people but to the entire international community.
In July 2013 UNESCO invited Britain to agree to mediation of the long running Greek claim for the sculptures that were taken by Lord Elgin from 1801 to be returned to Athens. Mr. Hill said that it has been almost 18 months since Britain was asked but they have not even given UNESCO the courtesy of a reply.
The British Museum is also ‘out of step’ with widespread UK public and professional opinion on the question of returning the sculptures to Greece. Opinion polls in the UK for the past fifteen years have consistently shown an overwhelming majority of people believe the British Museum should give the sculptures back.
Mr Hill said that supporters of the return of the Parthenon Sculptures throughout the UK and around the world would not rest until the sculptures are returned.
‘it is not often we can put right one of history’s great wrong. But in the case of the return of the sculptures stripped from Parthenon by Lord Elgin and shipped to England, we have that opportunity’, he said.
*The International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures represents volunteer committees in 16 countries that support the return of the Parthenon sculptures held in the British Museum to be reunited with the other Parthenon sculptures held in Athens. See www.parthenoninternational.org
The Chairman of the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures David Hill is in Greece with three prominent international lawyers to discuss legal options open to the Greek Government for the return of the Parthenon sculptures.
Hill will be joined by Geoffrey Robertson QC, Noman Palmer QC and Amal Alamuddin who are in Athens to meet with the Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, Deputy Prime Minister Angelos Venizelos and Culture Minister Konstantinos Tasoulas. During two days of meetings on 14 and 15 October they will also be meeting other senior Government officials.
David Hill organised the meetings at the request of the Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
The International Association for the Reunification for the Parthenon Marbles has sent an open letter to the British Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary & Culture Secretary, encouraging them to participate in the UNESCO organised mediation process proposed by Greece for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles.
A similarly worded letter has also been sent to all 24 trustees of the British Museum.
17 February 2014
Last week the Guardian published the results of a poll that showed 88% of respondents believe Britain should return the Parthenon Sculptures to Greece. The poll is consistent with all the other surveys in recent years that demonstrate overwhelming British public support on this issue.
The widespread support for the return of the Marbles is not limited to the British public. There are now volunteer organisations in 16 countries that have been formed to support the claim for the sculptures to be returned; in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Britain, Canada, Cyprus, Finland, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the USA. (partheononinternational.org)
As you would be aware, last year the Director General of UNESCO, Irini Bokova, wrote to your Government requesting that Britain agree to participate in a UNESCO process of mediation to settle the dispute over the Parthenon Sculptures.
There are strong moral arguments for Britain to accept the UNESCO mediation initiative that would allow the issue of the Parthenon Sculptures to be resolved in a spirit of cooperation, good will and friendship, with both sides being able to respect each other’s sensitivities.
We are also confident that in a mediation process there would be the opportunity for the British Museum to explore mutually beneficial arrangements with Greece involving the return of the Marbles that would leave the British Museum in a stronger position than at present.
Accordingly, I would urge you to support the British participation in the proposed UNESCO mediation process.
I will next be in London in March and would very much like the opportunity of meeting with you to discuss the matter.
Contact: David Hill
+61412 197 375
An international organisation supporting the return to Greece of the British Museum’s collection of Parthenon Sculptures has urged Britain to agree to have the dispute mediated by UNESCO.
The Chairman of the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures, David Hill, has written to British Prime Minister David Cameron urging Britain to accept the recent offer of UNESCO to mediate the issue.
The International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures has volunteer organisations in sixteen countries that support the claim for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures to Greece: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Britain, Canada, Cyprus, Finland, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the USA. (see www.parthenoninternational.org)
In 2010 UNESCO introduced new mediation procedures to handle claims for the return of illicitly acquired cultural property and Greece this year asked UNESCO to initiate the mediation process for the Parthenon sculptures. The Director General of UNESCO Irini Bokova has since written to the British Government seeking their agreement to participate in the proposed mediation.
The Parthenon Sculptures are the wonderful marble sculptures that decorated the Parthenon Temple of fifth century BC Athens. In the early 1800s, about 100 marble sculptured pieces and major fragments were stripped from the Parthenon on the Athenian Acropolis and taken to England by the then British Ambassador, Lord Elgin. Greece has consistently asked for the sculptures to be returned and the new Acropolis Museum in Athens has been especially built to accommodate them, alongside the other, matching sculptures that remained in Athens. Britain has rejected Greece’s claim for the collection to be returned and has refused to participate in any meaningful discussions of negotiations.
Contact: David Hill
+61412 197 375
Member organisations from the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures met in Athens yesterday.
During the course of the meeting, Panos Panagiotopoulos, the Greek Culture Minister addressed us, with his thoughts on the issue.
He emphasised the requests for the return of the marbles do not stem from Greek nationalism: “This is not an effort that starts from nationalism, this is not an effort to reinforce the ego of a European Nation. This is an effort that is deeply universal, to restore the unity of a cultural monument for all humanity.”
He elaborated on this, to explain that he feels that Greeks realise that their culture belongs to all humanity, and that they see their culture, as their passport for outreach to the rest of the world.
He then went on to inform the committees about the planned use of the UNESCO mediation process, to try and move the issue forward:
He has spoken to Irina Bokova, the current Director General of UNESCO, at a meeting in Paris in the summer. During the meeting, they discussed the case of the Marbles, and he requested that she could initiate the mediation process between Greece and the UK.
He also added that this is a legal process, but more importantly that this is the first case to which this process will have been applied.
A letter has now been sent (from UNESCO) to the following people in the UK, informing them that the UNESCO procedure is being initiated:
William Haig, the British Secretary of State for foreign affairs.
Maria Miller, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.
Neil MacGregor, the Director of the British Museum.
Finally, he touched on the fact that he is aware that the UNESCO mediation process is far from the only possible strategy. He noted that, “In an ideal world, there would not be these kinds of differences. However, I acknowledge that each one of you contributes to this cause with your spirit, your soul & your hearts. So this situation is only natural. I honour all your different views & would like to thank all of your for any proposals that you have made.”
However, he pointed out, that at this point in time, the decision to take the UNESCO mediation route has been made. It was underlined that this is an important step forward from Greece, so as a result, we should not let the opportunity slip away, or distract from the main focus of it.
He ended by thanking the supporters of reunification who had attended the meeting, commenting that he felt as though they were “like family” to Greece.
David Hill, the chair of the IARPS thanked the minister for his comments, and underlined the fact that the International Association will back Greece one hundred percent in their current endeavours.
Delegates from the other committees also added their words of support, noting that it was good to see that Greece was taking such an important step forward and that it is a very positive step that there is finally a clear direction to the route that their reunification efforts are taking.