(Al Jazeera Media Network) Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, says the United States is not interested in putting an end to the war in Ukraine, which he maintains the western military alliance created.
“The U.S. actually started the Ukraine war,” he said during a speech on Tuesday in Mashhad. “The U.S. created the grounds for this war to expand NATO in the east.”
“Now, it is also the U.S. that benefits the most from the Ukraine war,” Khamenei said. “The poor people in Ukraine are facing problems, and weapons manufacturing companies in the U.S. are reaping the benefits, so they won’t go along with ending the war.”
The supreme leader emphasized Tehran’s position that it has had no participation in the war, denying western claims that Iran has supplied armed drones that Russia has used in the conflict.
Western governments in recent months have imposed many rounds of sanctions on Iranian entities and officials based on allegations of arming Russia.
Khamenei told Vladimir Putin during a trip to Tehran in July that NATO would have started the war had the Russian president “not taken the initiative.”
The Iranian leader spoke on Tuesday as Chinese President Xi Jinping was in Moscow to hold talks with Putin. Xi has proposed a political settlement to the yearlong war.
As Xi and Putin held a second day of talks, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg warned China against supplying weapons to Russia.
The U.S. and Europe have expressed scepticism about the Chinese peace plan with U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby saying its call for a ceasefire under the current circumstances is “unacceptable.”
China earlier this month mediated a much-anticipated agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia that is expected to result within weeks in the two rivals restoring their diplomatic relations after seven years. In the process, Beijing has positioned itself as a new political power in the region.
Iran is trying to improve its political and economic relations with both Moscow and Beijing as tensions with the West continue to grow on the back of the Ukraine war, deadlocked talks to restore its 2015 nuclear deal, and September’s nationwide anti-government protests.
During Tuesday’s speech, Khamenei acknowledged that ties with the West have increasingly faltered, but he said Tehran was finding allies elsewhere.
“Yes, our relations with the westerners were weakened. We didn’t have relations with the Americans, and our relations with Europe were weakened. But we strengthened our relations with Asia 100 percent, and we will continue like this,” he said.