(Bloomberg) -- Greece’s relationship with the United Kingdom won’t be affected by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s decision to cancel a planned meeting amid a revived dispute over the so-called Elgin Marbles, the Greek premier, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, said Wednesday. 

“I think that it will not affect the Greek-British relations in the long term. It is a relationship with historical depth,” Mitsotakis said, describing the cancellation as an “unfortunate event.” 

It was the first public remark by the Greek leader after his return from UK, where Sunak canceled at the last minute a scheduled meeting with Mitsotakis, reviving the centuries-long spat between the two countries over ownership of the marble sculptures that were part of the Parthenon in the Acropolis in the Greek capital.

Sunak’s spokesman blamed the Greek government for the cancellation of the meeting, saying it failed to adhere to assurances it had given that Mitsotakis wouldn’t use his visit to publicly discuss “ancient grievances” about the artifacts. That contention was disputed by the Greek side, with officials pointing out it was clear that the issue of sculptures would be raised.

Read more: Sunak Escalates Marbles Row, Accuses Greek PM of Bad Faith

The Elgin Marbles are currently housed in the British Museum and both countries claim them as their own. In recent years, the sides had been close to resolving the dispute by brokering an arrangement for them to be displayed in Athens, from where they were taken by British diplomat Lord Elgin in the early 19th century.

But there are potentially broader implications for Sunak from canceling the meeting. Mitsotakis’s special adviser on international affairs, Aristotelia Peloni, said the pair were due to update the Greek-UK joint action plan on tackling migration agreed in 2020. 

In an effort to de-escalate tensions, Greek Foreign Minister Georgios Gerapetritis and his UK counterpart, David Cameron, met on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels at the latter’s request. The diplomats agreed there is a mutual need to safeguard bilateral ties to address common challenges, despite differences over the sculptures, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Mitsotakis said Wednesday he also saw a “positive” outcome from the feud, because “Greece’s fair request for reuniting the Parthenon marbles got greater publicity.”

--With assistance from Sotiris Nikas.

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.