Iran on Wednesday freed 10 American sailors from two small Navy vessels that Tehran claimed strayed into Iranian waters, prompting their overnight detention as Washington opened direct contacts with Iran seeking their release.

A senior defense official, speaking in Washington, said the sailors were not harmed but would undergo medical evaluation and a debriefing in the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar. Meanwhile, their vessels were taken by another American crew to Bahrain, their original destination and home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.

The release appeared to end a potential flash point as Iran and world powers move toward the possible next steps in a landmark nuclear deal that limits Tehran’s atomic program in exchange for the easing of international economic sanctions. […]