Thanks to concerted diplomatic actions of Greece, the UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin (ICPRCP) issued for the first time a Decision, not only a recommendation, regarding the issue of returning the sculptures of Parthenon to Greece, as we used to do the years before. This decision (22.COM 17), which was adopted unanimously last September at the Committee’s 22nd session, acknowledges the just request of our country and for the first time the United Kingdom is invited to enter into a dialogue with Greece.
This development is especially important as it underlines the intergovernmental nature of this issue and puts pressure on the British government to involve itself with this issue, which until now has been belittled by the British side as a dispute that solely falls within the exclusive jurisdiction of the British Museum. The Decision recognizes the historical, cultural, legal and moral dimensions of this issue and the reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures.
Most states wholeheartedly supported the Greek request for the return of the Sculptures, expressing simultaneously their disappointment because of the delay in resolving the issue.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, after many years of strenuous efforts of its diplomatic and legal executives, in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture and the Acropolis Museum, managed through its Special Legal Service to raise resolutely the issue and to ask the members of the Committee to adopt a more strongly opinionated Decision. It is deemed that the issue of the return of the Parthenon Sculptures has been constantly discussed in the Committee since 1984, when it was first raised by the then Minister of Culture, Melina Merkouri, but without a concrete result due to the repeated refusals of the United Kingdom to enter into dialogue with Greece.
It is essential that the Gallery in the British Museum where the Sculptures of Parthenon are located so far, has been closed since the beginning of 2020, due to damage caused by water inflow.