Elgin Marbles deal could use ancient Greek treasures as ‘collateral’

Successive Greek governments have claimed the marbles were stolen from the Parthenon in Athens by Lord Elgin in the early 1800s before he sold them to the British Museum - Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Successive Greek governments have claimed the marbles were stolen from the Parthenon in Athens by Lord Elgin in the early 1800s before he sold them to the British Museum – Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The deal proposed to return the Elgin Marbles to Greece would be the first of its kind, with the Mediterranean country’s ancient treasures being used as “collateral” to secure a final compromise, The Telegraph may reveal.

Negotiators from the British Museum and the Greek government are locked in talks to try to overcome the red lines that bind the two sides.

It is against the law for the British Museum to give away the artifacts, but any 2,500-year-old art loan deal would require the Greek government to accept that the British Museum is their legal owner, which it cannot do as it claims the artifacts were in fact “stolen”.

The Telegraph understands that negotiators are trying to “invent” a new type of deal that could circumvent this impasse, with ancient Greek hoards being shipped to Britain as “collateral” in lieu of the standard assurances of ownership that have held back any deal so far.

Talks are underway between British Museum president George Osborne and “the Greek government at the highest level,” according to sources close to the proposed deal, who say both sides are “ingenious” to craft a deal that is not legalistic but “practical” and capable of delivering marbles to Athens.

According to Hannah McKay/Reuters sources, talks are underway between British Museum president George Osborne (pictured) and

According to Hannah McKay/Reuters sources, talks are underway between British Museum president George Osborne (pictured) and “the Greek government at the highest level”

One source revealed that this would be a “hybrid form that would not contain certain demands” and thus would not cross either side’s “red lines”, offering something akin to a “permanent” solution to a diplomatic dispute over artwork.

For the British Museum, the main red line is British law which, through the British Museum Act 1963, prevents the institution from giving away artifacts from its collection, including the Elgin Marbles.

He is open to loan deals for his disputed treasures, but they involve demanding that other parties recognize his legal ownership of anything that is loaned, a standard stipulation that assures trustees that they will reclaim these artifacts.

However, successive Greek governments have maintained that the marbles were stolen from the Parthenon in Athens by Lord Elgin in the early 19th century before he sold them to the British Museum, and therefore cannot accept their legal ownership.

It has been speculated that only an Act of Parliament can change UK law and allow the British Museum to hand over the artifacts, but The Telegraph can reveal that sources close to the negotiations believe a deal is both possible and closer than ever. .

This “hybrid” deal could essentially involve ignoring ownership issues, with neither party being forced to accept the other’s claim to the marbles, and the British Museum allowing them to leave their Bloomsbury base without the usual guarantees.

Instead, the artifacts shipped from Greece to London under this potential deal could “act as a sort of legal safeguard”, with the British Museum holding a rotating set of ancient Greek treasures as collateral against the transfer of the Elgin fragments.

Sources suggest the deal would not be considered a “loan”, a curse word for the Greek side, but would be a “much more lasting arrangement”.

The most senior figures in the Greek government

While the talks were thought to have been held by officials in London, negotiations with Mr Osborne are being overseen by the highest-ranking Greek government officials who have focused for months on working out a deal that will sidestep the sensitive issues that have blocked any resolution to the poem.

The repatriation claims began shortly after Greek independence in 1832, just a few decades after Lord Elgin oversaw the removal of scenes from marble friezes, metopes (carved tablets) and statues from the Parthenon in Athens. The British Museum maintains that the statues were legally acquired.

If the Elgin fragments were to be returned to Athens, they would most likely be placed in the Acropolis Museum in Athens, which focuses on the Parthenon and the complex around it.

The British Museum has been contacted for comment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *