Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday slammed the European Union’s financial support package for Iran as a “big mistake” and said it was like a “poison pill” for the Iranian people.
The EU had announced Thursday a first tranche of 18 million euros ($21 million), part of the bloc’s commitment to keeping the Iran nuclear deal alive.
In May, US President Donald Trump withdrew from that deal, and began restoring US sanctions. The move has exacerbated a financial crisis in Iran that has sent its currency tumbling.
“I think that the decision yesterday by the EU to give 18 million euros to Iran is a big mistake. It’s like a poison pill to the Iranian people and to the efforts to curb Iranian aggression in the region and beyond the region,” Netanyahu said, speaking during a visit to Lithuania.
“Iran attempted to conduct a terror attack on European soil just weeks ago… That is incredible,” he told a press conference following a meeting with three Baltic prime ministers — Lithuanian Saulius Skvernelis, Estonia’s Juri Ratas and Maris Kucinskis of Latvia.
Netanyahu was apparently referring to a suspected bomb plot against an Iranian opposition rally in France in late June that was thwarted by authorities. An Iranian diplomat is suspected of involvement.
“Giving money to this regime, especially at this time, is a big mistake and it must be stopped. [The regime] isn’t going to use it to solve their water problems, it’s not going to help an Iranian truck driver,” he said.
“After all, where is their money going? For missiles, and to the Revolutionary Guard. All countries need to act together to renew sanctions on Iran,” he said.
Netanyahu added that the Iran nuclear deal threatened the security of Europe, because, he said, it never addressed Tehran’s long-term nuclear ambitions.
He said the Obama-era deal would have eventually allowed Iran to resume its uranium enrichment and “within a few years they would have not only one nuclear weapon, but a whole arsenal.”
Netanyahu also urged Baltic leaders to step up pressure on the EU for what he said was its “distorted position” on Israel.
“I unabashedly asked for the help of my friends here in correcting what I think is a distorted position, a distorted view on Israel in the EU,” he told reporters.
A day earlier, Netanyahu praised the decision by British Airways and Air France to end their direct flights to Iran’s capital of Tehran in September, citing low profitability due to the re-imposed US sanctions.
“That’s good. More should follow, more will follow, because Iran should not be rewarded for its aggression in the region, for its attempts to spread terrorism,” Netanyahu told a news conference in Vilnius.
Earlier, Netanyahu met with Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite who reiterated the EU position that Israeli settlements in the West Bank violated international law.
A day earlier, Netanyahu said that Israel was “often mistreated by the EU,” adding there were “many distortions.”
Skvernelis said in an interview with the Baltic News Service that after a meeting Thursday with Netanyahu, “I believe Lithuania really has a better understanding of Israel and that understanding could be spread among other EU countries. ”
“We need to better listen, hear them out and understand their position. We definitely lack a direct dialogue,” he said.
“But we have to admit that today Israel is not only waging war and defending its independence, the lives of its people, but is also fighting in a wider context, if we speak about terrorism and potential expansion of IS fighters to Europe,” Skvernelis said.
On Friday, Skvernelis proposed talks between the EU and Israeli interior ministers focused on “terrorism threats and other security issues.”
Skvernelis said he discussed the idea with Netanyahu, but officials said that no date was set yet and the format would depend on reactions from Brussels and Western European capitals, which are more critical toward Israel.
Netanyahu arrived Thursday in Vilnius on a four-day visit, the first to Lithuania by an Israeli prime minister.