Iran demanded and got an apology from the United States after Iranian forces held 10 American sailors captive, according to top Iranian officials. The sailors were held for less than 24 hours after briefly and inadvertently entering Iranian waters due to an equipment malfunction.
The BBC first reported that Gen. Ali Fadavi, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ navy, said the U.S. apologized to Iran for entering Iranian waters.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif “had a firm stance, saying that they were in our territorial waters and should not have been, and saying that they (the US) should apologize,” Fadavi said Tuesday prior to the release of the sailors. “This has been done and it will not take long, and the naval force, according to its hierarchy, will act immediately upon the orders it receives,” he added.
On Wednesday, Iranian authorities said they let the sailors go “after they extended an apology,” according to a statement from the IRGC. The statement went on to say, “The Americans have undertaken not to repeat such mistakes.”
A State Department spokesman phrased things differently.
“There is no truth in reporting that Secretary (of State John) Kerry apologized to the Iranians,” Kerry spokesman John Kirby told reporters Wednesday, later tweeting that the claim had “zero” validity. “As the Secretary said in his statement this morning, he expressed gratitude to Iranian authorities for their cooperation in swiftly resolving this matter, and noted that the peaceful and efficient resolution of this issue is a testament to the critical role diplomacy plays in keeping our country safe, secure, and strong.”
The Obama administration defended keeping the incident out of the president’s final State of the Union message Tuesday night, claiming there was no “hostile intent” and that American officials had “received assurance they will be released.”
However, a U.S. official reportedly told CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr that Iran’s confiscation of the sailors’ GPS and communications equipment was “hostile.”