An 18th century icon of John the Baptist which was stolen by a British Royal Air Force pilot in 1974 is set to be returned to Cyprus.

The son of the pilot – who was serving in Cyprus at the time of the Turkish invasion – reached out to the authorities to facilitate the icon’s safe return, saying that it was “the right thing to do”.

The son, who wishes to remain anonymous, contacted the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, and made no claims but set the precondition that no one benefit financially from the icon’s repatriation to its rightful owner, in this case the Church of Cyprus.

A statement from the academy on Thursday said that the person in possession of the icon coordinated with Marc-André Renold, a professor of the academy, for the icon’s safe return.

“If this icon could speak it would tell the story of its creation and of the joy it brought to generations of faithful, it would also speak of the sorrows of the world, conflict and of its displacement to another country,” Renold said during the handover ceremony.

“Its reconnection to the people who truly respect what it represents is the best outcome for all involved.”

Renold added that he worked with art historian Maria Paphiti, saying that without her work the process would not have been possible.

For her part, Paphiti said that while the icon is Cypriot it also holds wider significance for global cultural heritage.

It was handed over to a representative of the archbishop in Geneva on Wednesday and is due to arrive back in Cyprus in the coming days.