The chairman of the British Museum believes a deal is possible to share the Parthenon Marbles with Greece, which has long sought their return.
The 2,500-year-old friezes taken from Athens in the 19th century are at the centre of a long-running row with London, which insists they are protected at the British Museum where the world can see them.
But museum chairman George Osborne — Britain’s former finance minister — said in an interview Tuesday night that he believed there is a “deal to be done” to share the priceless artworks.
“In the British Museum they tell a story about civilisation compared to all the other civilisations — China, India, other parts of the Mediterranean,” he told LBC radio.
“In Greece they only tell the story of Greek civilisation.
“I think there is a deal to be done where we can tell both stories, in Athens and in London, if we both approach this without a load of preconditions, without a load of red lines.
“I think sensible people can arrange something that makes the most of the Parthenon Marbles, but if either side says there’s no give at all, then there won’t be a deal.”
The Parthenon temple was built in the 5th century BCE on the Acropolis to honour Athena, the patron goddess of Athens.
In the early 1800s, workmen took friezes from the monument on the orders of the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Scottish nobleman Thomas Bruce, known as Lord Elgin.
Elgin sold the marbles to the British government, which in 1817 passed them on to the British Museum where they remain one of its most prized exhibits.
Athens insists the sculptures were stolen.
In an interview last year, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson ruled out the return of the marbles, insisting they were legally acquired by Britain and legally owned by the British Museum’s trustees since their acquisition.
Osborne noted that “I don’t want to speak for all the trustees of the British Museum, we’d have to properly look at everything.
“Sensible people should come up with something so you can see them in their splendour in Athens, and you can see them alongside the splendours of other civilisations in London,” he said.
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