Boris Johnson has told his Greek counterpart that he understands the “strength of feeling” on the issue of the Parthenon Marbles, but reiterated that the matter lies with the British Museum.
Downing Street said that the Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, raised the issue of the ancient sculptures at his meeting with Mr Johnson in London on Tuesday.
The 17 figures were taken by the staff of British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Lord Elgin, in the early 19th century and have been the subjects of a long dispute.
Mr Johnson has insisted they were “legally acquired” and are rightfully owned by the British Museum, whereas the Greek PM argues they were “stolen” from Athens.
On Tuesday, Mr Johnson said the matter was “one for the trustees of the British Museum”.
A No 10 spokeswoman said the pair agreed that the issue “in no way affects the strength of the UK-Greece partnership”.
She said the two leaders also discussed issues including the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol.
“Finally, Prime Minister Mitsotakis raised the issue of the Parthenon Sculptures,” she said.
“The Prime Minister said that he understood the strength of feeling of the Greek people on this issue, but reiterated the UK’s longstanding position that this matter is one for the trustees of the British Museum.
“The leaders agreed that this issue in no way affects the strength of the UK-Greece partnership.”
The British Museum has insisted there is a “positive advantage and public benefit” in having some of the sculptures in London.