1119 GMT February 23, 2019
Iran's Ambassador to the United Nations Gholam-Ali Khoshroo said that the antique artifact, which dates back to around 500 BCE, was delivered to him.
The Iranian diplomat recounted that the limestone sculpture was excavated 90 years ago in Iran and stolen some years later and all Iran's efforts to get the valuable piece back were futile.
He added that thanks to Iran's efforts, a complaint was filed in court and the case was closed with final verdict approving Iran's right to have the ancient Persian piece returned to Iran.
"I'm very pleased that today, a very important cultural item that was smuggled from Iran was delivered to me by the District Attorney of New York County. This object belongs to about 2,500 years ago, and it is a relief of a Persian guard from the Achaemenid era," Khoshroo said.
He said the artifact would be transferred to Iran 'shortly', according to IRNA.
The artifact is an eight-inch-square piece of carved limestone. It belonged to a long line of soldiers depicted on a balustrade at the central building on the Persepolis site.
The relief had initially been stolen in 1936 from the ruins of Persepolis, the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire, situated 60 kilometers northeast of the city of Shiraz in Iran's Fars Province. UNESCO declared the ruins a World Heritage Site in 1979.
Khoshroo further said the masterpiece had been discovered last year at an auction house in New York.
According to The New York Times, the Manhattan district attorney's office had seized the eight-inch relief from the booth of London antiquities dealer Rupert Wace during a fair in October 2017.
Iran then presented documents pointing to the Iran's ownership of the work to the office, which stopped its sale, said Khoshroo, adding that it took the investigators 11 months to disprove the ownership allegations by the artifact's self-proclaimed owners.
The ruling on the Persian bas-relief was issued in late July. In court papers, the district attorney's office argued that no one can be a good-faith purchaser of a stolen work, according to The New York Times.
The Iranian diplomat further expressed gratitude to both the judge and the district attorney for their cooperation in repatriating the artifact.
"The humanity's general heritage is comprised of these very cultural and historical works. There should be vast cooperation on the international scale to confront smuggling of cultural artifacts and items, and the institutions active in the endeavor should be reinforced," Khoshroo asserted.
Meanwhile, the head of Iran's Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization Ali Asghar Mounesan said that attempts to have Iran's artifacts returned will be continuous and not limited to the Achaemenid bas-relief.