The Greek Culture and Sports Ministry declined to confirm a report on Tuesday that the British Museum and the Acropolis Museum are nearing an agreement on the gradual return of the Parthenon Sculptures to Greece Athens Macedonian News Agency (AMNA) reported.
According a Bloomberg report published on Tuesday (Greece time) an agreement would foresee that a part of the Parthenon Sculptures would be sent by the British Museum to Athens gradually and by rotation, as part of a cultural exchange, however, the logistics of moving the works are also “highly complicated”.
If the agreement was to go through, the Acropolis Museum would be able to loan other objects to the British Museum, while the latter might also receive plaster copies of the Sculptures, according to anonymous sources speaking to Bloomberg.
“An agreement would resolve a dispute that’s plagued Anglo-Greek relations since the foundation of modern Greece in 1832, and which even threatened at one point to add another layer to the UK’s already-complicated Brexit negotiations with the European Union,” Bloomberg reported.
The Greek embassy in London didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment either.
A spokesperson for the British Museum stressed it would “operate within the law” with regard to a new partnership with Greece on the Parthenon Marbles, adding that “We’re not going to dismantle our great collection as it tells a unique story of our common humanity”.
Any deal could be similar to one struck last year that saw Greece recoup 161 ancient artefacts from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Last month, Greek newspaper Ta Nea reported that Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had held direct discussions with George Osborne, the former UK Chancellor of the Exchequer who is now chair of the British Museum, over the possible return of the marbles.
Also read: UK warns British Museum over Parthenon Marbles
In another agreement last year, a museum in Sicily, Italy, returned a fragment of the Parthenon to Greece as part of a renewable loan arrangement. Among the complicated hurdles recent agreements have solved was the thorny issue of ownership and other legal claims, which could act as a template for the works at the British Museum.
While UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s office has ruled out changing a British law that prohibits museums from removing items they hold, a loan or rotation arrangement based on a cultural exchange may provide a way through that legal hurdle.
It is worth mentioning that The Parthenon Project, a body chaired by former UK Culture Minister Ed Vaizey which is working with the British and Acropolis Museums to find a solution, said an outcome is “finally within reach”.
“We have argued for a deal that is beneficial to both Greece and Britain, cantered on a cultural partnership between the two countries,” a spokesperson for the project said in December.
“This would see the British Museum continue in its role as a ‘museum of the world’ displaying magnificent Greek artefacts as part of rotating exhibits, with the Parthenon Sculptures reunited in their rightful home in Athens.”