By Maria Petrakis
Feb. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Greece's government returned two ancient statues stolen from Albania almost two decades ago.
The headless marble statues, one dating back to the 2nd century B.C. and the other to the 2nd century A.D., were handed to Albanian Culture Minister Ylli Pango in Athens today. They were recovered by the Greek authorities in 1997 and identified as having been stolen from the Butrint archaeological site in 1991.
``Greece is implementing a coordinated policy on returning illegally gained antiquities,'' Culture Minister Mihalis Liapis said at a news conference in Athens today. The handover puts this ``policy in practice, in the hope that we will find imitators in other countries.''
Greece and countries including Italy and Egypt are increasingly demanding, and obtaining, the return of artifacts which they say were illegally acquired. Over the past two years, the J. Paul Getty Museum, the world's richest art institution, has agreed to return to Greece the four items claimed by the country, settling a decade-long dispute.
The two statues were identified in 2003 as having been stolen from the museum at Butrint in southern Albania, which borders Greece. The site of a Greek colony and a Roman city, Butrint is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The handover was held at the New Acropolis Museum, which Greece is building to house antiquities from the 2,500-year-old Parthenon, including marbles in the British Museum which it hopes to get back.
To contact the reporter on this story: Maria Petrakis in Athens at firstname.lastname@example.org