Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Thursday dismissed a trade mechanism launched by European countries to bypass renewed US sanctions as a "bitter joke", AFP reports.
The European Union launched the trade mechanism that would bypass US sanctions on Iran, known as Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX), in late January in hopes of saving the 2015 nuclear deal.
US President Donald Trump withdrew last May from the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, and later imposed two rounds of sanctions on Iran, the latest of which went into effect in November of 2018.
The European signatories to the 2015 deal did not agree with Trump’s decision to leave the agreement and vowed to help Iran evade the economic sanctions imposed by the US, shielding companies doing business with the rogue state in an effort to preserve the Iran nuclear deal.
Khamenei, however, rejected the European efforts in a televised address at a shrine in the northeastern city of Mashhad, where he speaks every year to mark the Iranian New Year.
"This financial channel they recently set up resembles a joke, a bitter joke," he said, according to AFP.
"The difference between what they are obligated to do and what they are proposing is as far as the earth is from the sky," continued the Supreme Leader, who also stated that Europe cannot be trusted.
"We should completely forego (any hope) of help or cooperation from Westerners in strengthening our economy, we shouldn't wait for them," he said, adding, "Once again the Europeans have stabbed us in the back, they have betrayed us."
"They wear suits, they put on ties and eau de cologne and carry Samsonite briefcases but they are savages,” continued Khamenei.
"What I am saying does not mean (Iran) should cut Western ties, not at all... there is no problem in having relations with them, but trusting them is a mistake, don't trust them," stated Khamenei.
The US sanctions on Iran have had an effect on its economy, leading to a weaker rial currency in Iran that has fed into higher inflation.
As a result, Iranian leaders have struck an aggressive tone in recent weeks. On Wednesday, Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said that Iran will expand its ties with nations equally tired of “bullying” by the United States, calling the US sanctions “unprecedented, inhumane and illegal”.
Earlier in the week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani declared that his country would sue US individuals involved with the economic sanctions.