UK and Greece still have strong relationship despite Marbles row – Lord Cameron

Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron took questions from peers for the first time on Tuesday (Dan Kitwood/PA)
Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron took questions from peers for the first time on Tuesday (Dan Kitwood/PA)

The UK and Greece continue to have a strong relationship, Lord Cameron has claimed, following the spat over the future of the Elgin Marbles.

The Foreign Secretary heard claims that returning the ancient Greek sculptures housed in the British Museum to Athens would rekindle better relations amid a “really crappy world”.

Conservative peer Lord Dobbs, who was ennobled by Lord Cameron when he was prime minister, asked about “relations with Greece” as the Foreign Secretary faced questions from peers for the first time.

The House Of Cards author declared an interest as a supporter of the Parthenon Project, which aims to return the classical sculptures on display in the UK to their home city of Athens to be displayed alongside relics which remained in Greece.

Parthenon Marbles
A section of the Parthenon – or Elgin – Marbles in London’s British Museum (Matthew Fearn/PA)

Lord Dobbs asked: “May I simply say that in our really crappy world, is it not right that we should reach out and use as much soft power as we can to reforge and strengthen our relations with our old friend?”

Lord Cameron responded: “I don’t agree with him about what he says about the Elgin Marbles. The Government has a very clear position on that, it has been set out.

“I met the Greek foreign minister while I was at the Nato conference and we had a great discussion about all the other aspects of our relationship, where we are strong friends, allies and partners.”

Rishi Sunak sparked a diplomatic row with Greece after refusing to meet its prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, when he compared the artefacts’ removal to cutting the Mona Lisa in half.

Greece has long demanded the return of the historic works, which were removed by Lord Elgin from occupied Athens in the early 19th century when he was the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire.

Part of friezes that adorned the 2,500-year-old Parthenon temple on the Acropolis, the Elgin Marbles have been displayed at the British Museum in London for more than 200 years.

The remainder of the friezes are in a purpose-built museum in Athens.