May 23, 2007

Australian support for Parthenon Marbles Return

Posted at 12:51 pm in Elgin Marbles

More coverage of the statement by New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma on his support for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures to Athens.

Athens News Agency

PM Karamanlis on official visit to Australia, meets with NSW state premier Iemma

Sydney (ANA-MPA/A. Panagopoulos) — Prime minister Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday met with New South Wales state premier Morris Iemma, on the first official visit by a Greek prime minister in office to Australia. He is accompanied by foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis and deputy foreign minister Theodoros Kassimis.

Karamanlis arrived in Sydney on Monday night, embarking on the first official visit by a Greek prime minister to Australia, following a visit to New Zealand, on an official tour of the region which will also take him to Vietnam.

The Greek prime minister met at noon with New South Wales state premier Morris Iemma, who hosted a luncheon in honour of Karamanlis and the Greek delegation.

In his address, Iemma stressed that Greece has a government that guarantees democracy, creates, and has given momentum and growth to the country.

He also endorsed the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece, noting that a short while ago Britain had returned antiquities to Australia and that a similar move must be made with the Parthenon Marbles.

Iemma also praised foreign minister Bakoyannis, noting that she was Greece’s first woman foreign minister, and calling her a courageous woman, underlining that she had suffered the consequences of terrorism, referring to the assassination of her husband, New Democracy MP Pavlos Bakoyannis, by the ‘November 17′ terrorist group in 1989.

In his return address, Karamanlis referred to the friendly relations between the two countries, noting that the bonds emanate also from the presence of a prospering Greek community in Australia.

Karamanlis said that the flow of trade and investments between the two countries should be increased, stressing that Greece was an ideal business partner for Australian companies wishing to enter the developing market of Southeastern Europe.

“The Greek economy is evolving into a more dynamic, more open and more competitive economy,” he said.

He also expressed satisfaction over the scheduled signing, on Wednesday, of a Greece-Australia Social Security agreement, which he would co-sign with Australian prime minister John Howard in Canberra, noting that “a serious issue concerning thousands of people who have worked in the two countries will finally be settled with this accord”.

Turning to the national issues, Karamanlis said that Greece consistently encourages the European prospect of all the countries of the region “with the complete confiction that such a prospect constitutes a strong incentive that can help in ensuring and promoting democratic and economic reforms that will lead to the development and stability of our wider region”.

On the FYROM name issue, Karamanlis said that “we remain devoted to the UN process and look forward to a mutually acceptable solution, despite FYROM’s provocative stance”.

With respect to the Cyprus issue, he stressed that it is an international problem of military invasion and occupation, stressing that Greec’es policy was clear and consistent: “We support a comprehensive, just and viable solution for the reunification of the island, to the benefit of all its lawful inhabitants”.

Karamanlis, who is accompanied by foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis and deputy foreign minister Theodoros Kassimis, met earlier with Archbishop Stylianos of Australia on Tuesday, and attended a doxology.

Addressing local Greek Australians, Karamanlis praised the work of the Greek community abroad, stressing that the common goal was to build the future on the solid foundations that have been lain.

“Our thoughts focus on the next generation of Greeks abroad, all over the world, as the transition from one generation to the next brings about changes that we must be prepared to respond to, and to prepare for based on our timeless values and unity,” the premier said.

He said that the Orthodox faith comprises a strong element of the identity of the overseas Greeks, adding that the role of the Church in preserving the Greekness of the coming generations was undisputable.

Also important, he continued, was the role of the overseas Greeks’ organisations.

Karamanlis explained that, for his government, promotion and advancement of the Greek cultural identity was a top priority and, in that framework, the overseas Greek communities comprised a central element of its policy.

“The constant, two-way communication with the Greeks abroad and the smooth cooperation with the Church, the effort to create a climate of understanding among all the agencies of Hellenism, aim at consolidating conditions of unity of the Greeks Abroad, with the end goal being to reinforce the prosperity of our communities throughout the world,” the premier said.

Karamanlis later inaugurated the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese’s Vassiliada Home for the Elderly, where he stressed that the Greeks of the Diaspora have waged tough battles for survival, and praised the Archdiocese of Australia for all it has contributed and for the new old-age home while, addressing the local Greek community, said that “you have always kept Greece in your hearts, and I want you to know that you are in our thoughts”.

He announced that soon, a small bus would be donated to the old-age home to facilitate the elderly.

Karamanlis also visited the Greek Community Old-Age Home in Sydney, and the Greek Orthodox College of St. Spyridon, where he gave 22 outfits of the Greek national soccer team and soccer balls to the children, as well as books, noting that the students comprised “the future of Hellenism in this far-away country”.

The students at the college are chiefly third-generation Greek Australians.

Afterwards, the Greek delegation cruised the port of Sydney by boat, while Karamanlis was scheduled to address a large gathering of local Greek Australians on Tuesday night, before departing for Canberra where, on Wednesday, he is slated to visit the parliament and meet with Australian prime minister Howard.

The Greek prime minister is due to meet afterwards with opposition Labor Party leader Kevin Rudd, followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at the Hellenic Australian Monument, to be attended by war veterans, while he will also address members of the local Greek community during an event at the Greek ambassador’s residence in Canberra.

On Thursday morning, Karamanlis will go to Adelaide, where he will meet with South Australia state premier Mike Rann and Adelaide Lord Mayor Michael Harbison, followed by a reception for the local Greek community before leaving for Melbourne, where he will address the local Greek community at a dinner event.

Karamanlis will meet with Victoria state premier Steve Bracks and opposition members on Friday, while that same night he will address a large gathering of Greek Australians at the Rod Laver Arena.

On Saturday, Karamanlis will leave for Darwin, where he will meet with Northern Territory Chief Minister Clare Martin, followed by a reception hosted by Martin.

At noon on Saturday, the Greek prime minister will depart Darwin for Hanoi, Vietnam, on the last leg of his tour.

On Sunday, Karamanlis will lay a wreath at the Monument to Heroes and Martyrs, and another wreath at the Ho Chi Ming Mausoleum, followed by talks with Vietnamese prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung, after which a tourism cooperation agreement will be signed and statements made to the press.

Karamanlis will also attend an official lunch hosted by Dung, followed by a meeting with Vietnamese president Nguyen Minh Triet.

The Greek prime minister will depart Vietnam on Sunday afternoon (local time), and is expected to arrive back in Athens shortly before midnight Sunday (Greek time).

Middle East Times (Egypt)

Your World
Australian politician backs Greek battle for friezes
May 22, 2007

SYDNEY, Australia — A senior Australian politician Tuesday backed Greece in its battle to force Britain to return the Elgin Marbles, priceless ancient Greek friezes held by the British Museum.

During the first ever visit to Australia by a Greek head of government, New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma told Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis that it was time for London to relinquish the relics, also known as the Parthenon Marbles.

Iemma drew a parallel with the recent return by another London museum of the 19th century remains of a group of Tasmanian Aborigines.

“It is time they did the same for Greece and return the Parthenon Marble,” Iemma said at a welcome luncheon held for Karamanlis who was beginning a five-day tour of Australia in Sydney. “I believe the Australian government must renew its efforts to persuade the British authorities to repatriate those unique treasures, and I pledge my government’s support and the efforts of all Australians who are friends of Greece,” said the leader of Australia’s most populous state.

The Parthenon Marbles are friezes and other artifacts that were part of the structure of the ruined Athens landmark removed by Britain’s ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Thomas Bruce, seventh earl of Elgin, and taken to London in the early 19th century.

But the Greek government has since demanded the return of the items that it maintains were looted from one of the country’s most iconic monuments to allow them to be put on display in Athens.

The British Museum has long argued that they should remain in London.

Karamanlis began the first full day of his historic visit to Australia by plunging back into his native culture when he attended a service at a Greek Orthodox church in Sydney.

After his welcome luncheon, he took a boat trip on the city’s famed harbor before heading to a reception gathering Greek Australians.

Karamanlis will fly to the national capital Canberra Wednesday to meet with Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

Australia and Greece are expected to sign a bilateral agreement allowing Greek Australians returning to their homeland to claim an Australian pension.

Australia’s second largest Australian city, Melbourne, which Karamanlis will visit Friday, is home to the third largest Greek-speaking population in the world after Athens and Thessaloniki.

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