It was the fist interview of the British Prime Minister with a European newspaper since he took office about two year ago.

Boris Johnson talked exclusively to the Greek newspaper Ta Nea.

He was asked about his counterpart’s, Kyriakos Mitsotakis’, offer to return the Parthenon marbles in Athens in exchange for lending other Greek artefacts to London.

The British Prime Minister sought to put an end to this discussion.

B. Johnson with a plaster cast bust of his “personal hero” Pericles, in his office- Source: Ta Nea

I understand the strong feelings of the Greek people – and indeed prime minister Mitsotakis – on the issue,” he said. “But the UK government has a firm longstanding position on the sculptures, which is that they were legally acquired by Lord Elgin under the appropriate laws of the time and have been legally owned by the British Museum’s trustees since their acquisition.”

His comments prompted a swift response from the Greek Ministry of Culture. Lina Mendoni, who in the past has referred to Lord Elgin as a “serial thief” issued the following statement:

Upon careful review of the statements made by U.K. Prime Minister, Mr. Boris Johnson, it is clear that he has not been properly informed by the competent state services of his country, of the new historical data regarding Greece’s occupation by the Ottomans, that show that there has was never a legitimate acquisition of the Parthenon Sculptures by Lord Elgin and, therefore neither has the British Museum ever acquired the Sculptures in a legitimate manner. The Ministry of Culture and Sports can provide the necessary documentary evidence that can inform the British people that the British Museum possesses the Sculptures illegally.

From 1801, the British ambassador to the Ottoman empire Lord Elgin removed about half of the sculptures from Parthenon, source:

For Greece, the British Museum does not have legitimate ownership or possession of the Sculptures. The Parthenon, as a symbol of UNESCO and Western Civilisation, reflects universal values. We are all obliged to work  towards this direction” the statement concludes.

If returned to Greece, the Sculptures will be placed in the Acropolis museum

The Greek government has made it clear that it will not cease efforts for the return of the Parthenon marbles to Greece.

The Greek initiative called “Bring Them Back” accounts for thousands of supporters worldwide.

In Great Britain, British people who support the claim, have formed the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles.