VILNIUS, Lithuania — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashed out Friday at the European Union over its first financial support package to help bolster Iran's flagging economy, calling it "a big mistake" and "like a poison pill to the Iranian people."
Speaking on a trip to Lithuania, Netanyahu criticized the EU, which 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, U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from that deal, and began restoring U.S. sanctions. The move has been exacerbating 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.
"Iran attempted to conduct a terror attack on European soil just weeks ago... That is incredible," he told a press conference that followed 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.
Earlier, Netanyahu met with Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite who reiterated the EU position that Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory violate international law.
A day earlier, Netanyahu said that Israel was "often mistreated by the EU," adding there were "many distortions." Netanyahu, however, welcomed the decision by major international airlines to end their direct flights to Iran's capital, Tehran, in September, after Trump's sanctions move.
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.
Netanyahu arrived Thursday in Vilnius on a four-day visit, the first to Lithuania by an Israeli prime minister.