"I don’t know," Lavrov said when asked by CNN's Christiane Amanpour if he believed the U.S. was "empowering Islamic terrorists in Syria.
UNITED NATIONS – Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov escalated his war of words with the U.S. on Wednesday, telling CNN on Wednesday that he couldn’t rule out whether the U.S. is actively empowering Islamic terrorists in Syria.
At one point in an interview with anchor Christiane Amanpour, Lavrov accused the U.S. of violating a September ceasefire in Syria by attacking government positions near the city of Deir ez-Zor. Shortly after those attacks fell silent the Islamic State launched an offensive against Assad troops in the city.
“You’re surely not suggesting that the United States of America has any interest in empowering Islamic terrorists?” Amanpour asked.
“I don’t know,” Lavrov replied, before drawing causality between U.S. military interventions and the formation of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.
“I don’t want to suspect them in encouraging terrorism, but what they do as regards Nusra makes me very, very suspicious,” Lavrov said.
Those comments come at a time of pronounced tensions between the U.S. and Russia, in which the U.S. and its European allies have threatened to investigate Russia for war crimes in Syria.
Nevertheless, Lavrov stressed that diplomacy in Syria is not dead, and he touted a new round of talks with Secretary of State John Kerry to be held in the French city of Lausanne on Saturday.
“A number of key countries in the region” would also be present at the talks, Lavrov said, citing Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. He said he hoped the talks would “launch a serious dialogue on the basis of the principles contained in the Russian-American deal” that failed last month.
September’s deal held out the prospect of joint U.S.-Russian strikes against the Islamic State in addition to a ceasefire and the provision of humanitarian aid.
Despite Wednesday’s promise to convene talks on Saturday, neither country has expressed willingness to entertain the prospects of joint strikes again.