The Parthenon Sculptures, 'The Independent' and 'fake news'
According to the British newspaper The Independent, the Athens government has made a desirable offer to the British Museum: to loan, on a recurring and long-term basis, rare archaeological treasures from Greek museums in exchange for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures.
|Visitors look at The Parthenon Marbles in the British Museum in London, Britain, 05 December 2014|
[Credit: AAP via EPA/Facundo Arrizabalaga]
Ian Johnston, who authored the article, then apparently quotes Lydia Koniordou, the Greek Minister of Culture and Sport: "The reunification of the Parthenon Marbles will be a symbolic act that will highlight the fight against the forces that undermine the values and foundations of the European case against those seeking the dissolution of Europe. The Parthenon monument represents a symbol of Western civilisation. It is the emblem of democracy, dialogue and freedom of thought."
Greece, writes Johnston, has a number of art works dating back to antiquity, including the 'golden mask of Agamemnon' and the statue of Zeus/Poseidon, which if loaned to Britain would likely draw great interest.
Johnston then goes on to cite Professor Louis Godart, the newly elected chairman of the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures (IARPS): “It’s unthinkable that a monument which has been torn apart 200 years ago, which represents the struggle of the world's first democracy for its own survival, is divided into two. We must consider that the Parthenon is a monument that represents our democratic Europe so it is vital that this monument be returned to its former glory.”
According to Johnston the IARPS said in a statement that the Greek government had “resolved to renew and intensify its efforts for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures. The centrepiece of Greece’s renewed push for the return of the sculptures will be a proposal – made in a true spirit of compromise – to offer recurring, long-term loans of rare archaeological treasures from Greek museums in exchange for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures from the British Museum. Greece and its supporters will not rest until all the known surviving sculptural elements from the Parthenon are reunited in the Acropolis Museum in full view of the monument which they once adorned.”
Johnston then goes on to mention Greece's financial woes, followed by a diatribe "on the rise of the violent, neofascist Golden Dawn party [[which]] is now Greece’s third largest party with support from about 10 per cent of voters," and a quick jab at President Trump.
Finally, Johnston cites Andrew George, chairman of the British Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures, who evidently agreed that to return the sculptures on these terms would only help the UK to rebuild its reputation in the region following the controversial Brexit vote.
"Britain has nothing to lose but a deeply damaged reputation – having clung on for over 200 years to such important artefacts which were stolen from the Greeks when they could do nothing to stop it – and has much to gain at the very time Britain's reputation needs enhancing amongst those countries it wants to do a deal with," Mr George is quoted as saying.
The British Government, Johnston conludes, "has routinely dismissed calls for the return of the sculptures to Greece."
According to Greek government sources, however, no official or unofficial proposal has been made to the British Museum by the current leadership of the Culture ministry on the return of the Parthenon Marbles, the ministry said in a statement on Tuesday, responding to an article by “The Independent”.
“The Greek side is examining the possibility of cooperation with the British Museum which is not taking place today. Until now, no relevant official or unofficial proposal has been made by the current leadership of the ministry for the specific procedure,” it said.
The ministry acknowledged that it is making a systematic effort to restart dialog for the reunification of the sculptures with a new strategy which “is not based on legal action”.
"The Independent" published an article earlier in the day titled “Greece offers ancient archaeological wonders in exchange for Elgin Marbles”, which claimed the Greek ministry agreed to loan significant ancient artifacts to British museums on a regular basis in exchange for the return of the Marbles.
In the same statement, Professor Louis Godart, the chairman of the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures (IARPS), said he never spoke with any journalist from the “Independent”, adding he will send a letter to the paper.
“As president of IARPS, I never spoke to any journalist and wasn’t aware of the relevant article. Additionally, the mentioning of specific artifacts is a product of pure fiction on the side of the journalist who is signing the article or someone else’s who spoke in my name without having the relevant permission,” he said.
Godart added that these type of articles may seriously undermine” the issue on which the ministry is working on and noted that a serious conversation between the British Museum and the Greek State could have “significant results” towards the return of the Parthenon Marbles.
Source: The Independent & ANA-MPA [March 16, 2017]