Tillerson declares his nostalgia for old oil life

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had held several hours of talks the day earlier with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul, hoping to smooth out the two countries' ties (AFP Photo/OZAN KOSE)

Istanbul (AFP) - US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former chief executive of Exxon Mobil, expressed nostalgia for his former life as an oilman while picking up an industry award in Istanbul on Sunday.

Tillerson, often criticised for failing to communicate enough with the media and for leaving important State Department posts empty, was attending the opening of the World Petroleum Congress.

He waxed lyrical over his old job while being honoured with the Dewhurst Award for his contribution to the oil and gas industry.

Tillerson said when he was first notified he was going to receive the award -- before being nominated by President Donald Trump as top US diplomat -- he thought he would merely be interrupting a retirement spent fishing in the mountains.

"It did not quite work out that way," he said to laughs.

"I miss you as colleagues. I miss you as partners. I miss you as competitors. I miss the healthy debates. The collaboration. The breakthroughs that were achieved."

Tillerson, boss of Exxon Mobil from 2006 to 2016, said the energy business required massive long term investment, risk taking and risk management.

Speakers at the event are expected to include Qatar's Energy Minister Mohammed bin Saleh al-Sada, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and Saudi Aramco chief executive Amin Nasser.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is due to give a keynote address on Monday. The event runs until Thursday.