RETURN OF CULTURAL PROPERTY

An international 2-day conference on the timely issue of "Return of Cultural Property to its Country of Origin" began at the New Acropolis Museum of Athens on Monday.

Culture Minister Mihalis Liapis welcomed delegates -- which include attorneys, museum curators, archaeologists, academics and art experts -- to the conference, organised by the Greek culture ministry in cooperation with UNESCO.

In opening comments and with the Parthenon atop the Acropolis only 400 metres away, Liapis emphasised that an "ideal momentum" has been created to search out for "clear-cut solutions" regarding the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Athens from the British Museum in London.

Afterwards, Liapis guided Greek President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on a tour of the new state-of-the-art museum.

The president of the General Conference of UNESCO, George Anastassopoulos and UNESCO's Assistant Director-General for Culture, Francoise Riviere, also addressed the conference.

The conference participants will reflect upon and exchange experiences on the issue of the return of cultural property, examining several successful return cases, including: the Axum Obelisk from Italy to Ethiopia, the return of the Stone Birds of Great Zimbabwe from Germany to Zimbabwe, the return of human remains to the Ngarrindjeri Aboriginal tribe of South Australia, the "Utimut" cooperation project for the return of cultural objects from Denmark to Greenland, the reunification of a Neo-Sumerian alabaster figure (cooperation project between the Louvre and the Metropolitan Museum of New York) and the case of the ceremonial mask of the Kwakwaka'wakw people of Vancouver Island between the British Museum and Canada.