The PM has denied throwing a “hissy fit” after he scrapped a planned meeting with the Greek PM, accusing him of “grandstanding” about the return of the Parthenon Sculptures.
The monarch’s ties clearly showed the Greece flag – with a cross symbolising Eastern Orthodox Christianity in its top-left corner – in its pattern.
Charles’ father Prince Philip was born in Greece into the Greek royal family, and the King has spoken about his enduring affection for the country.
The astonishing display gesture in Dubai recalls the controversy over Queen Elizabeth’s blue and yellow outfit at the 2017 state opening of parliament – seen as a gesture of goodwill to the EU after the Brexit referendum.
However, the Queen’s dresser Angela Kelly later insisted that the colours were merely a coincidence and had been over-interpretated in the heated days after the divisive vote.
Charles’ choice of tie comes after Mr Sunak parked a diplomatic row by controversially snubbing Kyriakos Mitsotakis during his visit to London. The Greek leader compared the artifacts’ removal to cutting the Mona Lisa in half.
No 10 claimed Mr Mitsotakis had reneged on a promise not to discuss the centuries-old dispute over the Parthenon Sculptures, with the Tory leading using PMQs to accuse the Greek PM of “grandstanding”.
Former Tory chancellor George Osborne – who is the chair of the British Museum – said Mr Sunak may have thrown a “hissy fit” because the Greek PM chose to met Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer first.
As British Museum chair, Mr Osborne has been talking with the Greek government about a potential arrangement which would allow the sculptures to be displayed in Greece.
“Is it just petulance? Is it just having a bit of a hissy fit?” said Mr Osborne told his Political Currency podcast. “And, I think if that’s the reason, it’s not because Mitsotakis was going to raise the Elgin Marbles. It’s because he had met Keir Starmer the day before,” he said.
Asked whether the former chancellor was right about a “hissy fit”, Mr Sunak told journalists with him at Cop28: “No, no. I think I’ve said everything I’ve got to say on this in parliament the other day.”
The Tory leader also hinted that a loan arrangement could be impossible due to Greece’s current stance. “Our position is very clear – as a matter of law the marbles can’t be returned and we’ve been unequivocal about that,” he said.
“And I think the British Museum’s website itself says that in order for the loans to happen the recipient needs to acknowledge the lawful ownership of the country that’s lending the things.”
Mr Sunak added: “And I think the Greeks have not suggested that they are in any way shape or form willing to do that. Our view and our position on that is crystal clear: the marbles were acquired legally at the time.”
Greece has long demanded the return of the historic works, which were removed by Lord Elgin from occupied Athens in the early 19th century when he was the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire.
The 1963 British Museum Act prohibits the removal of objects from the institution’s collection, a position in law that Mr Osborne said would ensure Greece would have to return the sculptures following any exchange.
But the Tory grandee said on Thursday that it was clear from events this week that Mr Sunak’s government would not support an exchange.
Some Tory MPs have criticised Mr Sunak’s apparent own goal – which saw him plastered across Greek front pages this week, including one carrying the words “f*** you b******”.