George Osbourne says Parthenon sculpture deal could be “win-win” for London and Athens

The British Museum Chair said he was optimistic about finding a suitable solution to the debate over the correct home of the ‘Elgin Marbles’.

George Osbourne has said the British Museum is in talks with the Greek government about a new arrangement over the Parthenon Sculptures which he called a potential “win-win”.

Rumours of private talks between the museum and Greece have circulated among the press in recent months. Late last year it was reported by Greek newspaper Ta Nea that the head of British Museum had been in secret talks with the Greek PM for over a year, in an effort to find a resolution to the disputed home of the marbles.

The British Museum Chair told BBC Radio 4 that “there is a way forward where these sculptures, the Elgin Marbles, the Parthenon Sculptures, could be seen both in London and in Athens, and that will be a win-win for Greece and for us.”

He said that discussions with the Greek government have involved the topic of “a new arrangement”, adding, “what I didn’t want to do is force the Greeks to accept things that they find impossible, and equally they can’t force on us things that we would find impossible.”

The impossibilities Osbourne may be referring to are that of UK law and the temporary return of the marbles to their place of origin.

Osbourne said that an agreement within the bounds of current UK law could not involve the permanent return of the sculptures.

He added: “If we wanted to send all the Elgin Marbles back then that would require an act of parliament, and that would be beyond my authority,” he said, but added that he was “reasonably optimistic” about an alternative solution.