Vice President Biden on Wednesday said Iran neither sought nor received an apology when 10 U.S. Navy sailors were taken into custody by the Islamic republic after drifting into Iranian waters.
“No, there was no apology, there was [nothing] to apologize for,” Biden said on CBS’s “This Morning.” “When you have a problem with a boat, do you apologize the boat had a problem? No, and there was no looking for any apology. This was just standard nautical practice.”
General Ali Fadavi accused the sailors of engaging in “unprofessional acts” for 40 minutes before being picked up.
Reuters also reported that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif “took a firm stance [with Secretary of State John Kerry] as the sailors had violated Iran’s territorial waters and asked the United States for an apology.”
Biden said the U.S. has often done the same for Iranian boats experiencing mechanical failures.
He said “the Iranians picked up both boats, as we have picked up Iranian boats that needed to be rescued” and then “released them like, you know, ordinary nations would do.”
“That’s the way nations should deal with one another. That’s why it’s important to have channels open,” he added.
White House chief of staff Denis McDonough credited the new lines of communication established with Iran during negotiations over the nuclear deal for the sailors’ quick release, particularly Kerry’s “early engagement” with Zarif.
“I do think that the open lines of communication, which are relatively new, are extraordinarily important, particularly when we have so many interests in such a crowded area in the Persian Gulf,” he told reporters Wednesday at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast.
McDonough said it’s too early “to draw a big lessons” from the incident about the U.S.’s relationship with Iran.
“Obviously, we’re very pleased to see that our 10 sailors are now back with us, where they should have always been,” he said.
The sailors were released on Wednesday after being held on Farsi Island for one day.
The incident came amid escalating tensions with the U.S. and Iran and just hours before President Obama delivered his State of the Union address.
Jordan Fabian contributed.