King Charles III addressed the COP28 summit in Dubai on Friday wearing a tie emblazoned with the Greek flag, in a week that saw a big diplomatic bust-up between London and Athens.
The dispute erupted after Rishi Sunak, UK prime minister, cancelled a meeting with his Greek counterpart on Tuesday, accusing Kyriakos Mitsotakis of using a BBC interview ahead of his planned visit to Downing Street to “grandstand” in the longstanding rift over the so-called Elgin Marbles.
Parts of the Greek media seized on the British monarch’s choice of neckwear as a signal that he had some sympathy with Mitsotakis and his quest to return the Parthenon sculptures from the British Museum to Athens.
The image of the King was featured on the majority of Greek news sites under headlines such as: “A picture is worth a thousand words”.
An article on the website of Greek daily newspaper Kathimerini said: “Even though King Charles has not taken a stance on the issue, this move is seen by many analysts as an indirect form of support.”
The King wore the Greek-themed tie for one of his biggest engagements of the year: a speech on the environment in front of world leaders at the COP28 summit.
Sunak was also in attendance at the event and posted a picture of himself on the social media platform X cheerily chatting with the monarch.
Buckingham Palace insisted the tie was simply part of the King’s “current collection” and that he had worn the same item last week to welcome the president of South Korea, before Sunak’s bust-up with the Greek prime minister.
Charles is known as a lover of Greek culture and is a frequent visitor to the country where his father, Prince Philip, was born.
Sunak’s decision to snub Mitsotakis this week was dubbed “pathetic” by the Labour opposition and was criticised in Athens. Giorgos Gerapetritis, Greek foreign minister, said: “Even Israel and Hamas communicate.”
Sunak insisted he cancelled the meeting because the Greek premier broke a promise not to “grandstand” on the question of the Elgin Marbles ahead of their Downing Street encounter.
Mitsotakis on Friday told Bloomberg TV he hoped to put the diplomatic dispute behind him, but added: “It always takes two to tango.”
The Greek tabloid, Eleftheri Ora, known for its bold headlines, was less forgiving, featuring a picture of Sunak on its front page with the headline: “Fuck you bastard.”