Culture

Syriza abandons legal fight for Elgin Marbles

The Greek government has rejected the advice of its high profile lawyers, among them Amal Clooney, and ruled out legal action to reclaim the contested Elgin Marbles from the British Museum in London.

It took the Greek culture minister just 48 hours to reject the legal advice contained in a 150-page report which was delivered to the Greek government, written by prominent lawyers Amal Clooney, Geoffrey Robertson and Norman Palmer. In their advice, they had warned that it was "now or never" for Greece to reclaim the classical sculptures, and urged the government to take Britain to the International Criminal Court or failing that, the European Court of Human Rights.

"The British adhere to international law," advised Clooney who co-authored the report. "The Greek government has never taken advantage of this Achilles heel. You must take legal action now or you may lose the opportunity to do so due to future legal obstacles."

But Greece's culture minister has said the country will only pursue a "diplomatic and political" approach to retrieving the sculptures. Nikos Xydakis told the country's Mega TV: "On the one hand, you can't file a suit over any issue, and, on the other, the outcome in international courts is never certain.The way to winning back the Marbles is diplomatic and political".

He insisted that "low-key persistent work" was instead required, as the international climate was gradually turning to Greece's favour.

The Marbles were taken from Greece's Parthenon by Lord Elgin 200 years ago. Greece insists the sculptures were taken illegally, although the British Museum claims that Lord Elgin received permission from Ottoman authorities at the time.

It seems unclear as to why the new Greek government rejected the advice so swiftly, although there is speculation in the media that with the ongoing fraught negotiations between Europe and Greece over its bailout, the new government who were only elected in January, has got cold feet.

It is thought that cost was a factor however, as according to the Times newspaper, a Greek shipping magnate had agreed to pay the barrister's fees for the Greek government,

Rights groups who wish to see the 5th century marbles restored to Athens have been left dismayed by the decision.

"To reject it so rapidly comes across as a something of a knee jerk rejection of any efforts by the previous administration rather than something that has been fully considered," Matthew Taylor, at the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures, told the Guardian.