But Tillerson and company officials did note that Exxon Mobil had received a waiver to complete drilling an exploration well in Russia's Arctic waters.
Reports emerged Wednesday that Exxon is seeking a waiver from the Trump administration to collaborate with Russia's state oil company. The Russia sanctions have cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars.
Tillerson pledged he would recuse himself from matters pertaining to Exxon during his first two years at State. The State Department is one of the agencies that have a say on the waiver, the Journal said. He has close personal ties with Russian Federation, has struck several major deals with Rosneft in the past, and received the Order of Friendship award from President Vladimir Putin in 2013.
Asked about the waiver application, Alan Jeffers, an Exxon Mobil spokesman, said, "We don't comment on ongoing issues".
Any request from Exxon to expand its business in Russian Federation is bound to draw scrutiny from U.S. lawmakers investigating possible ties between some campaign aides of U.S. President Donald Trump and Moscow. This proved to be problematic for both parties: Rosneft does not have the technological ability to drill in cold offshore conditions by itself, while Russian Federation was Exxon's second-biggest exploration area at the time.
The Black Sea is covered by USA economic sanctions aimed at preventing certain business dealings in retaliation for Russia's annexation of Ukraine. Back in September 2014, Rosneft discovered oil there with Exxon, however, due to the sanctions, they could not continue the landmark joint exploration. To my knowledge, Exxon Mobil never lobbied against the sanctions. Exxon has sought drilling access to the region since late 2015.
Both the Treasury Department and ExxonMobil refused to comment on the pending application.