It has been reported that Keir Starmer is open to the idea of the return of the Parthenon marbles.

Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labour party, has assured the Greek government that if they win the election next year, he will not oppose a potential agreement to bring back the Parthenon marbles to Athens.

Before meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in London, Starmer spoke through his aides and strongly hinted at his support for a loan agreement that would result in the return of ancient artifacts to Greece, where they originated 2,500 years ago.

According to the Financial Times, one of the Labour leader’s trusted colleagues stated that if the British government and the Greek government can come to a satisfactory agreement on a loan deal, we will not interfere.

As the UK gets ready for a national election, the involvement emphasizes the importance of the cultural conflict during a time when disputed artifacts are being returned to their countries of origin around the world.

A potential agreement is being discussed in private negotiations between Greek representatives and George Osborne, the head of the British Museum. This deal would involve the return of the sculptures to Athens in exchange for a rotation of Greek artifacts being showcased in London.

A large number of these pieces of art are currently stored in the vaults of museums and have not been displayed to the public before.

Greek sources acknowledged the Labour leader was “favourably disposed” to a significant part of the antiquities being displayed at the Acropolis Museum within view of the fifth-century BC Parthenon temple they once adorned.

However, it was announced that Mitsotakis would discuss this matter with Starmer in London on Monday and with Rishi Sunak, the prime minister, in Downing Street on Tuesday. This is part of their efforts to quickly reunite the fragments. Officials have advised against having high expectations.

According to an undisclosed source, there are ongoing discussions surrounding a potential deal, but they are being handled discreetly due to the sensitive nature of the situation.

According to him, Starmer would likely avoid openly discussing this matter due to the potential negative response from the public, as there would be inevitable criticism that Labour is going crazy leading up to election day.

According to a reliable source in Athens, one of the reasons why Starmer has been vocal about his opposition to altering the 1963 deaccession act, which prohibits the museum from giving back the marbles, is because of this.

The disagreement between the UK and Greece stems from a difference in ownership of the artifacts. The UK government refuses to consider the artifacts as a temporary loan, as they believe they were taken unlawfully by [Lord] Elgin in the 19th century. On the other hand, the British Museum claims that they are legally bound to retain ownership of the artworks in their collection.

The Parthenon sculptures on display at the British Museum in London.

However, the Labour party has reached out to Athens. According to sources within the party, last week the top Greek newspaper Ta Nea reported that Starmer was willing to explore a “legal solution” that would permit the display of the antiquities in the city of Athens.

Starmer is not the first Labour leader to back restitution. His predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn, also believed the marbles should be repatriated if his party won office, while Neil Kinnock famously declared almost four decades ago that “the Parthenon without the marbles is like a smile with a missing tooth”.

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At the request of Elgin, England’s ambassador to the Sublime Porte, the antiquities were taken out in a situation that is still debated. They were transported to London in crates from 1801 to 1804 and later sold to the British Museum in 1816.

When the marbles were taken from the monument, Lord Byron criticized it as an act of vandalism.

In 1983, the dispute reignited as Melina Mercouri, an actor and politician, formally requested the return of the sculptures to Athens. She argued for repatriation, stating that the carvings are a vital component of a monument that embodies the Greek national identity.

The British Museum currently holds approximately half of the original 160-meter-long Parthenon frieze.

The disagreement has resulted in increasing humiliation in the UK, as surveys have revealed that the majority of British citizens are in favor of returning the marbles.

Over the past forty years, Osborne has expressed a growing interest in creating a partnership with Greece that would permit the sculptures to “temporarily reside in Athens.”

At the recent annual trustees dinner at the Duveen Gallery in the British Museum, where the sculptures are currently on display, Osborne stated that as trustees, they seek a collaborative relationship with their Greek counterparts. This partnership would not require anyone to give up their claims and would not involve making changes to laws that are not within their jurisdiction. The main goal is to establish a practical, pragmatic, and reasonable path moving forward.

“We may not achieve success, but we believe it is worth attempting.”