A Greek government source told Neos Kosmos that, “Canberra remains a staunch supporter of the return of the Parthenon Sculptures to Athens”.

“Australia remains one of Greece’s strongest supporters of the return of the Parthenon Sculptures and its stance remains unchanged,” the source said.

The statement to Neos Kosmos by a senior Greek government source follows a recent report that Australia abstained from taking a position in favour of Greece on the return of the Parthenon Sculptures at an Intergovernmental Committee of UNESCO for the Return of Cultural Property to the Countries of Origin (ICPRC) meeting.

Neos Kosmos reported last Saturday’s that Greek media outlet Proto Thema published comments attributed to the Director General of the Acropolis Museum, Nikolaos Stampolidis, from the recent 25th Session of the where the Director General according to Proto Thema criticised Canada and Australia as being the only two nations out of 20 abstaining on the vote to return the Sculptures.

Neos Kosmos reached out to both the Press Office of the Greek Ministry of Culture and the Press Office of the Acropolis Museum but has not yet received a reply.

Australia has been a steadfast supporter of the Greek request so the comments apparently attributed to Stampolidis in Proto Thema, came as a surprise to this masthead.

A source close to Neos Kosmos, from the Maximos Mansion in Athens has categorically denied the claim that Australia had avoided taking a position in favour of Greece for the return of the sculptures.

The reported claim was also denied by a spokesperson from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs in a statement to Neos Kosmos.

Proto Thema published the following claim:

“The fact that of the 20 countries attending the conference, 18 of them came out clearly in favour of Greece – only two, Canada and Australia, refrained from taking a position – sent a clear message that the British claim that the Sculptures are theirs has now been refuted.”

Neos Kosmos sought clarification from DFAT and a spokesperson told us:

“Australia is not a member of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in case of Illicit Appropriation (ICPRCP).

“Australia neither abstained from voting nor had any participation in the decision-making process of the 25th session of the Intergovernmental Committee of UNESCO held on 29 and 31 May 2024.”

Greek Australian activists for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures, Elly Symons and George Vardas verified the DFAT statement.

The issue arose when one of the main arguments of the British side for the Parthenon Sculptures to remain in London was undermined by the representative of Turkey at the 24th Intergovernmental Committee of UNESCO held in Paris on 29 and 30 May.

Turkey’s spokesperson at the ICPRCP denied any knowledge of a written authorisation permitting Britain’s Lord Elgin to purchase sections of the Parthenon’s Sculptures torn off the ancient Greek citadel between 1801 and 1812, when Athens was under Ottoman rule.

“We are not aware of any document legitimizing this purchase,” Zeynep Boz, who heads the Turkish Culture Ministry’s department for combating trafficking in antiquities, told the 24th session of the committee, which took place in Paris on May 29-31.

That there was no firman (official mandate)”, said the Greek Minister of Culture Lina Mendoni.

“Greece is always open to dialogue. It has tried and will continue to try, so that the great national goal, which is the satisfaction of the national demand for the reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures in Athens, in the Acropolis Museum, becomes a reality,” the Greek Minister added. The Greek Minister of Culture.