A draft bill designed to enhance protection of Greece' ancient treasures and make it easier to arrest antiquities smugglers is expected to be ready within six months, Culture Minister George Voulgarakis revealed on Tuesday.
He also announced that a meeting later the same day between culture ministry officials and representatives of the Getty Museum to begin the second round of talks for the return of two ancient Greek artifacts that Greece believes were smuggled out of the country illegally.
In the meantime, the culture ministry was continuing contacts with the Italian culture ministry to exchange information and tactics regarding ways to combat antiquities smugglers.
The IHT adds some details on the Getty stuff:
Greece's Culture Ministry launched a new round of talks in Athens Tuesday with representatives of Los Angeles' J. Paul Getty museum on possibly bringing two ancient Greek treasures home, officials said.
Greece claims the works — a gold wreath dating from about 400 B.C. and a 6th-century B.C. marble statue of a young woman — were illegally excavated and smuggled out of the country.
A Culture Ministry announcement said Getty officials would be examining Greece's documentation backing up the repatriation claim.
Officials have said a possible deal could involve long-term loans of Greek antiquities to the Getty.
The talks follow a groundbreaking agreement in July for the return of two ancient Greek sculptures in the private U.S. museum's collections. Under intense pressure from Athens, the Getty board concluded that "it would be right" to hand over the pieces, which date back to the 6th and the 4th centuries B.C.
These artifacts were returned last month and are currently on display at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.
Thousands of plundered artifacts have been smuggled abroad by organized gangs, ending up in museums and private collections.
Now, for the first time in years, Athens has launched a concerted effort for their repatriation — starting with the Getty.
Culture Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis warns Greece will seek the return of "every ancient Greek artifact for which we have evidence that it was illegally excavated or trafficked."
On Tuesday, he told reporters that Culture Ministry officials are working with their counterparts from Italy — another Mediterranean country with a rich cultural heritage at risk from looters — on tackling the problem.
"We have had very good contacts with Italy on matters of requesting the return of antiquities or fighting smugglers," he said.