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Greece’s Foreign Minister calls for return of Parthenon Marbles

Dora Bakoyanni [1], Greece’s Foreign Minister, has spoken about the Elgin Marbles at an important conference & highlighted how resolution of the issue might bring about increased cooperation between Britain & Greece.

Athens News Agency [2]

Modern History of Greece con’f

Foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis noted on Friday the historic ties between Greece and Britain, which celebrate this year their 175th anniversary of diplomatic relations, and stressed as their modern-day “mature and precious” bilateral cooperation, as well as their cooperation as EU partners and NATO allies “in a turbulent and uncertain world”, while she also called for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to be housed in the state-of-the-art New Acropolis Museum.

Addressing representatives of the British intellectural elite at a conference titled “The Study of the Modern History of Greece: An Oxford Perspective”, held at the Old Parliament building in central Athens, she said: “I am fully aware that I am touching on a sensitive chord for everyone. The return of the Marbles is a just demand for the culture of the City of Athens”.

“Today, as Greece has the modern Acropolis Museum, there place must be in the environs of the Sacred Rock (Acropolis),” Bakoyannis said.

“I address myself to all of you and seek your assistance so that this cause may become the strongest bond of cultural cooperation rather than a point of friction between the two states,” the foreign minister told the delegates.

Turning to the modern-day challenges, she stressed the usefullness of historians/researchers in extracting lessons, so as to face the “ethnicist exacerbations, secessionary tendencies, economic changes,” such as those being witnessed by Europe today.

She described Greek-British relations as “excellent and precious”, a relationship “that has neared maturity with the multiple aspects of cooperation”.

“We are allies and partners,” she said, recalling that “we were on the same side in the major wars of the century”.

She said that both at bilateral level and within international organizations “we work closely together to meet the international challenges”, and noted that the Middle East, the Caucasus and the Mediterranean “are at the front line of our bilateral relations, just as the war against poverty, organized crime and terrorism.”

Referring to the international credit crisis, which Europe was at this time making efforts to withstand, she said that “cooperation between our countries is of particular importance”, and, although “there have been and are divergences and disagreements on specific matters”, they were being tackled through “frank discussion,

British ambassador to Greece Simon Gass, speaking in turn, praised the traditional bonds between the two countries, despite the occasional disruption of relations in the past due to the Cyprus issue, said that, today, “we look forward to the Greek Presidency of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe” in 2009″, at a time when the EU’s relations with its neighboring countries were being put to the test, adding that Britain anticipated an “active, dynamic and creative” Greek OSCE presidency.

Noting Britain’s support of and contribution Greece’s national struggle for national independence, Gass said that today, too, “there must be corresponding support for the peoples whose human rights are being violated”, adding that he believed that independence struggle leaders Ypsilantis and Kolokotronis “would have no objection to that”.

“Europe’s voice is powerful, and we should not be afraid to use it,” the British ambassador stressed.

Greek foreign ministry spokesman, in a brief greeting, noted that the conference was a follow-up to Bakoyannis’ visit to Oxford last November, adding that its purpose was to enhance the cultural ties, but also the broader bonds, between the two countries, noting that modern-day Greece was a stable, democratic, European country.

The conference is organized by the Greek foreign ministry’s Department of Information and Public Diplomacy, in association with the department of South East European Studies at Oxford (SEESOX), St. Antony’s College, University of Oxford and the British Embassy in AThens.

The aim of the conference is to highlight Oxford University’s particular interest in the study of modern Greek history and not just ancient Greek civilisation, thus providing an opportunity for unknown aspects of this renowned university’s scientific work and other activities to be presented, proving that there has always been a philhellenic climate at Oxford.

Speakers at the conference include renowned academics such as Margaret MacMillan, Professor of History, Warden, St Antony’s College, Sir Michael Llewellyn-Smith, Former Ambassador to Greece, Honorary Fellow, St Antony’s College, Richard Clogg, Professor of History, Emeritus Fellow, St Antony’s College, and Renee Hirschon, Senior Research Fellow, St Peter’s College, University of Oxford. Greek professors to address the conference include Konstantinos Svolopoulos, Academician, Professor Emeritus at the University of Athens, and Thanos Veremis, Professor of Political History at the University of Athens. The conclusions of the conference’s proceedings will be presented by Honorary Ambassador Vyron Theodoropoulos. The conference will be chaired by Mr. Othon Anastasakis, Director of SEESOX, Fellow, St Antony’s College. Following the conclusion of the proceedings, the guest speakers from Oxford and the other speakers will visit the new Acropolis Museum.