The Cyprus government is expected to demand answers from Britain as to why a 2,700-year-old vase given as a state gift to former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was recently sold at a Christie’s auction in May this year.

Historian Maria Paphiti, who specialises in Byzantine and Russian art, said on Twitter that it was while she was doing research on Cypriot pottery that she “came across this bichrome vase that was given by President (George) Vassiliou to Margaret Thatcher. Sold at Christies in May ’19, it fetched 6000 GBP (British pounds), a price significantly higher than its pre-sale estimates 700-1,00GBP, due to its provenance.”

Under UK law, officials are not allowed to privately own state gifts worth more than £140.

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As the then president of Cyprus, Mr Vassiliou had to ask for special permission from the nation’s Department of Antiquities to offer the vase as a gift to Mrs Thatcher. His wife, Androulla, emphasised that the vase was offered as a state gift not a private one.

Mrs Vasilliou, a former European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, said on Twitter that her husband, who served as the third president of Cyprus from 1988 to 1993: “Will be very disappointed. After Mrs Thatcher ceased to be PM, this ancient pottery which was a gift to the PM of the UK, should have found its place at 10, Downing Street. It should certainly not be sold by her heirs. It was not a personal gift.”

The revelations have caused an uproar on the island nation and Cyprus’ foreign minister is expected to raise the issue with the British High Commissioner to Cyprus.