The director of the British Museum has appeared to rule out returning the Elgin Marbles to Greece.
The 2,500 year-old marble sculptures were brought over to Britain in the early 19th century and bought by the Government who passed them on to the British Museum where they remain one of the most prized exhibits.
Debate over where the sculptures should be located has raged for decades.
In an interview with Ta Nea, Greece’s daily newspaper, British Museum director Hartwig Fischer said: “The Trustees of the British Museum feel the obligation to preserve the collection in its entirety, so that things that are part of this collection remain part of this collection.”
Asked if he thinks the Greeks are right to want the Parthenon sculptures back, he told the newspaper: “I can certainly understand that the Greeks have a special and passionate relationship with this part of their cultural heritage.
“Yes, I understand that there is a desire to see all of the Parthenon Sculptures in Athens.”
Asked about Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge to return the Elgin Marbles to Greece if he became prime minister, Mr Fischer told Ta Nea: “I think that this is Mr Corbyn’s personal view on the question, that you take note of.
“Obviously, that is not the stance and the view of the Trustees of the Museum.”
Mr Fischer was asked if he would accept that Greece is the legal owner of the Parthenon Sculptures, and he replied: “No, I would not. The objects that are part of the collection of the British Museum are in the fiduciary ownership of the Trustees of the Museum.”
In a statement, the British Museum said: “Hartwig Fischer was stating the long-standing position of the British Museum. We believe there is a great public benefit in being able to see these wonderful objects in the context of a world collection.
“The museum lends extensively across the world, and some loans are long-term but not indefinite.”