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29 January, 1999
An UNESCO committee responsible for "the promotion of the return of cultural artifacts to their country of origin" yesterday decided the organization's future initiatives regarding the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece.
After three days of deliberations, the committee adopted a special recommendation on the issue, which instructs the UNESCO's director general to assume initiatives in the immediate future with a view to bilateral negotiations between Greece and Britain.
It also calls upon the director general to participate, through the specialized consultative organs of the organization, in all international scientific discussions to take place on the issue of the maintenance of the Parthenon Marbles.
It notes three such conferences in future, one in Washington next month, in the British Museum in November 1999, and in Athens in December 1999.
The UNESCO director general will have the responsibility for informing the Intergovernmental Committee on the results of the negotiations during its next meeting in two years' time.
It may be noted that the Greek and British delegations agreed on the final text after two days of deliberations. According to sources, the inflexibility of the British side was expressed, among other things, through positions that the British Museum is an independent non-governmental organization, able of making its own decisions.
Commenting on the content of the recommendation, Greek culture ministry officials expressed satisfaction on "the future activation of UNESCO on the issue, and on the fact that bilateral negotiations will, in some way, come under the organization's auspices, and that they will take place at both ministers' and specialists' level."
Source: Athens News Agency