The UK is working on a new arrangement with Greece through which the Parthenon Sculptures could be seen both in London and in Athens, British Museum chair George Osborne said on Thursday, describing it as a win-win situation.
Osborne, a former finance minister, reiterated that the museum was having constructive talks with the Greek government about the marbles which have been a source of dispute between the two European countries for centuries.
“It’s a very hard problem to solve,” Osborne told BBC Radio. “But I think there is a way forward where these sculptures, the Elgin Marbles, the Parthenon Sculptures, could be seen both in London and in Athens, and that will be a win-win for Greece and for us.”
When asked if that meant loans, he said: “We’re talking to the Greek government about that, about a new arrangement and what I didn’t want to do is force the Greeks to accept things that they find impossible, and equally they can’t force on us things that we would find impossible.”
The Greek government has said it was in talks over the repatriation of the sculptures, which were removed by British diplomat Lord Elgin from the imposing Parthenon temple in Athens in the early 19th century.
But Osborne ruled out a scenario where the sculptures could be handed over permanently, saying it would need a change of UK law.
“If we wanted to send all the Elgin Marbles back then that would require an act of parliament, and that would be beyond my authority,” he said. “But what the museum can do is try and form a new relationship with Greece.”
“I’m reasonably optimistic.”