European Council President Donald Tusk has slammed "the capricious assertiveness" of the United States under President Donald Trump, who he said has "rid Europe of all illusions."
Tusk made the comments on May 16 in Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia, before an EU summit where the U.S. decision to abandon the Iran nuclear deal and the threat to impose tariffs on aluminium and steel products will be discussed.
"Beside traditional political challenges such as the rise of China or the aggressive stance of Russia, we are witnessing today a new phenomenon: the capricious assertiveness of the American administration," Tusk told reporters.
"Looking at the latest decisions of President Trump, someone could even think: with friends like that who needs enemies?" he added. "But frankly speaking, Europe should be grateful to President Trump, because thanks to him we have got rid of all illusions. He has made us realize that if you need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of your arm."
However, the former Polish Prime minister also insisted that "Europe must do everything in its power to protect, in spite of today's mood, the transatlantic bond."
Earlier in the day, German Chancellor Angela Merkel also stressed the importance of preserving relations with Washington despite what she called "all the difficulties we have had in the past few days."
"Transatlantic ties are and remain of paramount importance," Merkel told the German parliament.
She also said that canceling the nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers would be wrong, adding that the U.S. withdrawal from the deal was among several pieces of "troubling news" that had occurred recently.
President Donald Trump announced last week that the United States would abandon the landmark 2015 accord despite the European powers' sustained efforts to convince Washington to continue to adhere to the deal.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreed by Iran and six world powers -- the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China -- obliged Tehran to curb its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
Merkel said that while the pact is "anything but ideal...it's not right to cancel this agreement in this situation now."
At meetings with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Brussels on May 15, Britain, France, Germany vowed to keep the JCPOA alive despite the U.S. withdrawal.
Zarif said on May 16 that, while the meetings sent a strong political message, that must now be turned into action.
"If the JCPOA is supposed to continue, it was a good start and it has sent an important political message, but this is not the end of the work," Zarif said on his flight back to Tehran, according to state news agency IRNA.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said on May 15 that experts had already started working on measures that the bloc might take to shield European companies from renewed U.S. sanctions on Iran.
The work, Mogherini said, is focusing on nine key areas including Iran's capacity to continue selling oil and gas as well as ways to protect European firms doing business in the country.
Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rohani said on May 16 that Tehran will not bow to U.S. pressure.
"They think they can make the Iranian nation surrender by putting pressure on Iran, through sanctions and even threats of war.... The Iranian nation will resist the U.S. plots," Iranian news agencies quoted Rohani as saying.
Rohani was speaking a day after Washington announced fresh sanctions on the governor of Iran's central bank, accusing him of providing support for terrorist activities.
The Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said Valiollah Seif and another senior central bank official, Ali Tarzali, were named "specially designated global terrorists" for allegedly helping funnel millions of dollars on behalf of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' Quds Force (IRGC-QF) to support Lebanon's Hizballah militia.