Kerry told Iran sailor capture could be made into 'good story'

US Secretary of State John Kerry (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb ) (AFP/File)

Washington (AFP) - US Secretary of State John Kerry told Iran's foreign minister that Tehran's capture and release of 10 US sailors could be turned into a "good story" for both countries, a US official said Wednesday.

Kerry called Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at least five times on Tuesday to secure the safe release of the boat crews after they strayed into Iranian territorial waters in the Gulf and were captured.

During the calls, a senior US official told reporters, Kerry urged his counterpart to consider the potential crisis an opportunity to showcase the strengths of the thawing diplomatic relationship between the old foes.

"They speak relatively regularly, none of this is unusual in the wake of the dialogue we've had on nuclear issues," he said, adding that Kerry had already had a scheduled call with Zarif before the news broke.

Kerry explained to Zarif that the sailors -- crews in two US Navy patrol boats -- had been on a routine transit mission between Kuwait and Bahrein and urged him to ensure that they were released quickly and unharmed.

And he added "if we are able to do this in the right way it would be a good story for both of us."

According to the US official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a private diplomatic exchange, Kerry's success in the negotiation was testament to the closer ties developed between the governments during negotiations on the Iran nuclear deal.

After Kerry and Zarif's discussions, Tehran agreed to release the sailors and their boats and the incident was handed over to the two militaries to arrange the safe transfer of the personnel back to the US fleet.