The Greek government has rejected advice by human rights attorney Amal Clooney to wage a legal battle for the Parthenon Marbles and has dropped the case all together.
Less than 48 hours after receiving the report from the attorneys, Greek Culture Minister Nikos Xydakis said that the route to retrieving the marbles from the British Museum lay in diplomatic and political channels and not international courts where outcomes were far from assured.
Xydakis was speaking barely 48 hours after receiving a 150-page report from Clooney and her partners exhorting the Greek government to pursue legal channels immediately. The report described a “now or never” opportunity for Greece and advised it to take the British Museum to the international court of justice.
“The British adhere to international law,” said Clooney who co-authored the report with Geoffrey Robertson and Norman Palmer, pre-eminent experts in cultural restitution. “The Greek government has never taken advantage of this Achilles heel. You must take legal action now or you may lose the opportunity to do so due to future legal obstacles.”
But Xydakis insisted that “low-key persistent work” was instead required, as the international climate was gradually turning to Greece’s favor.
The move comes at a time when the Greek position was gaining in momentum after a thirty year struggle to gain popular, diplomatic and political support for the case.
In March, a movement from within the British Parliament undertaken by MP Andrew George called for the government to “demonstrate that Britain is prepared to… reunite these British-held Parthenon sculptures with those now displayed in the purpose-built Acropolis Museum in the shadow of the monument to which they belong, the Parthenon in Athens”.
Many high profile celebrities, politicians and international figures were also jumping on the Greek bandwagon.
The sudden about face by Xydakis has left many people bewildered and confused.
“Diplomatic and political efforts have been tried since the mid-1980s and made very little progress,” said Matthew Taylor, at the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures. “To reject it so rapidly comes across as a something of a kneejerk rejection of any efforts by the previous administration rather than something that has been fully considered,” he said.