So, it's only been a few days since I wrote about Australia's plight to get the Parthenon Marbles returned from Great Britain to their original homeland. Since then, however, a fair bit more news on the marbles has been released so it's time for an update.

On December 9 came the news that Culture Minister Aristides Baltas had decided that Athens will no longer claim the return of the Parthenon sculptures from the British Museum in fear that Greece might lose the legal battle. The committee was, however, working on a draft bill for the return of cultural artifacts that have been illegally removed from Greek soil.

Former culture minister Costas Tasoulas called the handling of the issue 'unacceptable'. Tasoulas had made an effort to pursue the return of the Parthenon sculptures using the legal advice of a British law firm. The British law firm gave the document of their counsel to the Greek Embassy in London which was forwarded to the ministry of culture. The ministry of culture ignored the counsel and refused to accept it. It should be noted that the total cost of the legal advice came to 200,000 English pounds, an amount that was paid by a Greek living in London who preferred to remain anonymous.

This seemed to be the end of the issue for Greece. On December 12,  however, the United Nations adopted a resolution in favor of the Decision for 'Restitution or Return of Cultural Property in the countries of origin' which includes an explicit reference to the return of the Parthenon Marbles. A total of 74 countries, including many European Union member states, a significant number of Latin American countries and several Arab and African states are involved in the initiative.

This is an initiative to facilitate the return of cultural property to countries of origin and the efforts to protect cultural heritage. These are two dimensions that are highly relevant and critical today, as both the Middle East suffers daily from destruction of works of art, archaeological artifacts and monuments of cultural heritage. At the same time, smuggling of cultural property is used as a means of financing terrorism.

The original press release by the UN can be found here. The relevant bits is:

"[...] CATHERINE BOURA (Greece), introducing the draft resolution “Return or restitution of cultural property to the countries of origin” (document A/70/L.28), expressed hope that it would be adopted by consensus as in previous years. She said the report by the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on the action taken by that body on the return or restitution of cultural property to the countries of origin (document A/70/365) outlined relevant developments over the past three years, and was timely due to international activities such as cross-border movement of cultural objects, money laundering and the sale of cultural artefacts.  The looting of monuments in Iraq and Syria showed that multi-confessional communities were threatened by terrorism, she said, noting that the draft resolution expressed deep concern about theft of cultural objects in areas of armed conflict and condemned the looting and destruction of cultural heritages sites. There was a link between the destruction of cultural artefacts and the financing of terrorism, she said, emphasizing the importance of raising awareness and capacity-building in that regard.  The international community had a responsibility to protect cultural heritage in times of peace and war, she added.
[...] The Assembly then adopted, by consensus, the draft resolution on the return or restitution of cultural property to the countries of origin (A/70/L.28)."

And so, it seems, that this issue has not been ended after all. While the focus of the bill was on protecting national treasures ffrom IS, the bill does leave an opening for Greece's claim, if they are willing to pursue. It is, however, the same type of opening as they have had for years now, so not much may change in practice.