The unexpected meeting comes after Rex Tillerson’s meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, where Lavrov issued a stern warning to Tillerson — DO NOT strike Syria again. Most experts and commentators claimed this wouldn’t happen due to the escalated tensions between Russia and the US over Syria.
A joint press conference is scheduled between the two foreign ministries. Secretary Tillerson expressed hope that this meeting will promote “open and frank” dialogue between the Russian Federation and the United States.
While this is their first official diplomatic meeting, Putin and Tillerson enjoyed a professional relationship going back to 1999, when Putin was Russia’s Prime Minister ahead of his first presidential term. The two met then over a proposed joint oil project on Russia’s island of Sakhalin, which Tillerson went on to head, before being elected ExxonMobil’s CEO. Over the past decade, the two have signed multiple deals over oil development, and in 2013, Tillerson was awarded the Order of Friendship by Putin for his contribution to developing cooperation with Russia in the energy sector.