US Vice President Mike Pence is leading talks on the Middle East in Warsaw this week which focus on Iran’s nuclear ambitions and regional stability. The Ayatollah’s comments came as some Arab nations began warming to historic foe Israel at the summit where Iran was slammed as “not behaving like a normal country” by US state department’s special representative to Tehran, Brian Hook. In a seven-page statement that was broadcast word-for-word on Iranian state television, Iran’s religious leader moved to block diplomatic relations with Washington.
He said: “About the United States, the resolution of any issues is not imaginable and negotiations with it will bring nothing but material and spiritual harm.”
Mr Khamenei described any such negotiations as an “unforgivable mistake”, adding it would be like “going on your knees before the enemy and kissing the claws of the wolf.”
The speech marked a new low in frosty US-Iran relations which had been moving in a positive direction until President Trump announced the US was pulling out of the landmark nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, last year.
In 2015, when the accord was signed by the Obama administration, Iran, the United Nations security council, Germany and the European Union, Khamenei approved of dialogue with Washington.
However President Trump ripped up the deal, which limits Iran’s enrichment of uranium in exchange for a relaxation of economic sanctions, in May last year.
Ever since, the United Nations has worked with Iran’s leaders to hold them to their side of the bargain despite repeated threats from Tehran to challenge the deal.
today’s statement by Khamenei, who is the highest ranked political and religious authority in Iran, pushes Tehran’s government further away from Washington and the West.
The comments were backed by Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani who told a cabinet meeting: “If the Iranian nation surrenders to the United States, it should surrender until the end.”
Mr Rouhani added: ”Iran is about negotiation, but we are not ready to accept imposition, bullying, pressure and the trampling of our national rights.”
Despite that claim, a former Iranian diplomat has said President Trump is open to visiting Tehran and has sent several messages to the Mr Rouhani through Omani intermediaries.
Amir Mousavi said one such message requesting direct talks, in a similar fashion to how President Trump has opened up to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, was sent last week.
America’s Warsaw summit, which began on Wednesday, attempts to engage Middle Eastern countries to work harder to bring peace to the region.
Foreign ministers and officials from more than 60 countries have gathered for the conference which hopes to further resolutions on relations with Iran, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and conflicts in Syria and Yemen.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Oman’s foreign minister Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah whose country is leading diplomatic efforts of Arab nations, including Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, who do not officially recognise Israel.
Mr Netanyahu praised Arab nations, saying “Many are following this Omani lead including at this conference” with Mr Yousuf replying: “People in the Middle East have suffered a lot because they have stuck to the past. Now we say, this is a new era, for the future.”
However Mr Hook slammed Iran’s behaviour, saying: “We’re trying to expand the number of nations who are engaged and have a stake in the future of a peaceful and prosperous Middle East.
“”Iran isn’t behaving like a normal country.
“They have a very expansionist foreign policy and that destabilises other countries.”