Boris Johnson welcomes Greek PM to Downing Street

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Boris Johnson thanked the Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis for his leadership at Cop26 as he welcomed him to Downing Street this afternoon.

Mr Mitsotakis offered his congratulations to the UK Prime Minister following the Glasgow summit, while Mr Johnson said “we made a lot of progress”.

The Greek PM also said there was “a lot to talk about” surrounding the “very strong bilateral relationship” between Greece and the UK.

Greeting Mr Mitsotakis, Mr Johnson said: “Great to welcome my friend Kyriakos Mitsotakis to London. We have been… working on this for a long time and the relationship between Greece and the UK is of the utmost importance to me, to us.

“It is of course the bicentenary of our support for Greek independence – Greece’s historic movement towards independence in 1821.”

Mr Mitsotakis interjected: “Against the odds,” and Mr Johnson added: “Against the odds. With the support of Lord Byron and others. But fantastic to see you.”

Poet Lord Byron used his fame to internationalise the Greeks’ fight for liberty from 1821 to 1829.

Mr Johnson also said: “I want to say a big thank you to Kyriakos for your leadership during Cop26 in Glasgow.”

The Greek prime minister said Mr Johnson delivered a “very complicated project”.

Elgin Marbles
The Parthenon Sculptures, also known as the Elgin Marbles (Matthew Fearn/PA)

While only warm words were exchanged before the cameras, it is expected that Mr Mitsotakis will challenge the prime minister over the return of the Elgin Marbles to Greece during his visit.

The leaders are unlikely to see eye to eye over the status of the Parthenon sculptures removed from the Acropolis more than 200 years ago.

Mr Johnson has insisted they were “legally acquired” and are rightfully owned by the British Museum, whereas the Greek prime minister argues they were “stolen” from Athens.

The 17 figures were taken by the staff of British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Lord Elgin, in the early 19th century and have been the subjects of a long dispute.

Downing Street said today that decisions about the ancient sculptures were a matter for the British Museum.

The UK Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The possession of the marbles is a matter purely for the museum, it’s not one for the UK Government.”

Prime Minister of Greece visits UK
Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos (Daniel Leal/PA)

The British Museum insisted there was a “positive advantage and public benefit” in having some of the sculptures in London.

Last week, Mr Mitsotakis told The Daily Telegraph: “Our position is very clear. The marbles were stolen in the 19th century, they belong in the Acropolis Museum and we need to discuss this issue in earnest.

“I am sure that if there was a willingness on the part of the (British) Government to move we could find an arrangement with the British Museum in terms of us sending abroad cultural treasures on loan, which have never left the country.”

But Mr Johnson, earlier this year, ruled out returning the marbles to Greece.

He told Greek newspaper Ta Nea: “I understand the strong feelings of the Greek people, and indeed Prime Minister Mitsotakis, on the issue.

“But the UK Government has a firm longstanding position on the sculptures which is that they were legally acquired by Lord Elgin under the appropriate laws of the time and have been legally owned by the British Museum’s trustees since their acquisition.”

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting