The U.S. and Russia have been trading barbs since President Donald Trump ordered airstrikes on the Assad regime’s military assets in Syria last week, but now Russian President Vladimir Putin has closed the door on a face-to-face meeting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson when the U.S. top diplomat visits the country later this week.
Russia has long supported Syrian President Bashar Assad and refutes the U.S. claim that the dictator ordered the recent chemical weapons attack in Syria that killed innocent people, including many children.
“We have not announced any such meetings and right now there is no meeting with Tillerson in the president’s diary,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a Monday press conference call, according to Reuters.
Before Tillerson became Secretary of State, he was the CEO of ExxonMobil, a job that included dealings with the Kremlin. In 2013, Putin presented Tillerson with the Russian Order of Friendship award.
Tillerson is expected to meet with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, during his stop in Moscow, according to Reuters.
Reuters reported that Putin regularly met with John Kerry, Secretary of State under Barack Obama.
“Reacting to media reports that Tillerson would use his visit to press Moscow to stop supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Russia’s closet Middle East ally, Peskov called that a non-starter,” Reuters reported.