Secretary of State John Kerry thanked Iran for their "cooperation and quick response” in releasing the 10 U.S. Navy sailors held overnight on Iran's Farsi Island.
Kerry said Wednesday the new lines of communication with Iran established during nuclear negotiations were key to getting the sailors released quickly.
He said the situation would've played our very differently if it occurred three or four years ago.
“That this issue was resolved peacefully and efficiently is a testament to the critical role diplomacy plays in keeping our country safe, secure and strong,” he said.
The nine men and one woman were taken into custody Tuesday when their two small U.S. navy riverine vessels drifted into Iranian-claimed waters during a training mission. Iran's Revolutionary Guards said in a statement read aloud on state TV that the sailors had been released back into international waters following a U.S. apology and clarifications that any incursion was unintentional.
A senior U.S. defense official said the sailors are heading to a U.S. military facility in Qatar and likely have already arrived there.
The official said the sailors also will be debriefed by naval officials and will get medical checkups, though there's no sign any were harmed.
The official spoke to The Associated Press on Wednesday on condition of anonymity as the information had yet to be made public.
The saiolrs were held in an Iranian base on Farsi Island in the Persian Gulf. The U.S. military has said that mechanical trouble with one of the boats caused them to drift into Iranian territorial waters near the island, where they were picked up by Iran.
Iranian state television has shown dramatic images of the moment when Revolution Guard forces captured the sailors.
The video and stills were published on its website Wednesday night, hours after the sailor's release.
The images show the U.S. sailors with their hands on their heads, while others show Iranians inspecting the machine guns onboard and going through papers.