Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray met senior White House aides without the State Department’s knowledge, according to an official.
State Department acting spokesman Mark Toner said he was “unaware” the foreign minister was in Washington.
The secretary of state typically receives foreign diplomats during visits to the nation’s capital.
The disconnect comes amid reports that the State Department has been sidelined in matters of foreign policy.
“We’ll take that and get back to you. I was unaware that he was – the foreign minister was in town,” Mr Toner said at a news conference on Thursday.
“I can’t speak to whether there’s going to be any meetings at the State Department at any level”, he continued.
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Mr Videgaray met President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, National Economic Council Directory Gary Cohn and National Security Adviser HR McMaster on Thursday.
The Mexican diplomat later said he had spoken by phone to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday night to notify him of his arrival, and the two agreed to meet in person in a couple of weeks.
Mr Videgaray also said that Thursday’s meeting was focused on raising concerns with the Trump administration about its consideration of separating migrant children from their parents at the border to discourage crossing into the US illegally.
“Family integrity is a basic human right,” he said at the Mexican Embassy in Washington.
Earlier this week, a group of Democratic senators raised concern that the State Department was facing several challenges that could undermine US diplomatic leadership, according to BBC State Department Correspondent Barbara Plett Usher.
In a letter sent to Mr Tillerson, they said they were concerned the department was experiencing significant management challenges, was being left out of important foreign policy decisions and that Mr Trump’s budget cuts could devastate American diplomacy.
Mr Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly met Mr Videgaray two weeks ago in Mexico City as part of an effort to repair frayed relations between the two countries.
Relations between the neighbours are at their lowest point for decades.
Mexican officials have been rankled by President Trump’s harsh rhetoric on immigration as well as his plan to build a multi-billion-dollar wall along the southern US border.
The president has also insisted that Mexico would pay for the wall – a claim that Mr Videgaray and other officials have flatly rejected.
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