The Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna has a tiny collection of marbles – just 2 fragments from the Parthenon’s northern frieze. But Greece hopes that with each agreement to return pieces to Athens there will be growing “positive momentum” in talks on returning pieces being kept elsewhere.
“I am very pleased that technical discussions are taking place between the Kunsthistorische Museum and the Acropolis Museum on mutual loans of the Parthenon frieze,” Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg told a news conference with his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias.
“I am very hopeful that the talks can move on very quickly and the marbles will be on display in Athens.”
Dendias said the talks were important in the context of discussions about bigger collections, particularly that of the British Museum in London.
Since independence in 1832, Greece has repeatedly called for the return of the sculptures that British diplomat Lord Elgin removed from the Parthenon temple in Athens in the early 19th Century, when Greece was under Ottoman rule.
“The regional government of Sicily in 2022 and Pope Francis in 2023 returned to Greece part of the Parthenon sculptures so this will be the third one and this for us is of huge, huge importance,” Dendias said. “And also beyond the very fact of this, we believe that will create a momentum which we could use in our discussions with London.”
Moreover, in related news,
Issues of energy, investments, and developments in Sudan were discussed by Greek Foreign Affairs Minister Nikos Dendias during a meeting with his Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg in Vienna on Tuesday.
In joint statements after their meeting, Dendias spoke of the electrical interconnection between Greece, Austria and Germany through Albania and the Western Balkans as an important element of the future energy cooperation between the two countries.
The Greek minister also commended Austria for ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) even though it is a landlocked country, and expressed the hope that other countries will follow Austria's example. Although "there are not many that have not subscribed to it, there is one, it is quite important for us," he said.
Asked about Greek-Turkish relations, Dendias noted, "We are pragmatists. We hope that after the Turkish elections we may be able to try again to find a way out on our difference with Türkiye. But, of course, that can only be based on International Law and the International Law of the Sea."
Dendias was also queried about his scheduled meeting in Vienna with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi. He said Greece was concerned about neighbouring Türkiye's plan to build a nuclear plant at Akkuyu, and about the existing nuclear plant at Zaporizhzhia, in Ukraine, which he said "poses a direct threat to the overall region."
Regarding Sudan, Dendias pointed out that the situation in Khartoum and Darfur is not getting any better, and expressed his hope to help facilitate that refugees "stay next to the Sudanese border, while we are trying our best to bring a truce and a normalisation at a later stage. Then, leaving Sudan for Europe, I don’t think that helps them and I don’t think that helps you," he pointed out.
Dendias thanked Schallenberg for his country's decision to lend to Greece two fragments from the Parthenon's northern frieze, of 25 cm and 65 cm. The pieces are currently at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.
After meeting with Schallenberg, Dendias met with IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi.