Tillerson to meet NATO members next week: Official

Washington, Mar 24: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will meet with members of the NATO alliance next week, after initially planning to skip ministerial talks, a spokesman said today. 

The State Department was unable to confirm whether the new March 31 meeting in Brussels will replace a planned foreign ministers' meeting that Tillerson will not attend on April 5 and 6.

Earlier this week, Tillerson caused dismay among Washington's European allies when his office announced that he would not be able to attend the meeting of the 28-member alliance. 

But diplomats have been scrambling to find another date to accommodate the envoy from NATO's leading member. "The Secretary of State will visit NATO in Brussels on Friday, March 31. The visit will come after his trip to Ankara, Turkey. Details about his schedule are forthcoming," a spokesman said.

Another official told AFP it was not yet clear whether the full foreign ministers' meeting would be brought forward to Tillerson's preferred date or if his talks would be separate. 

Chinese leader Xi Jinping is expected to visit President Donald Trump in the United States in early April, and Tillerson would be expected to attend their meetings. 

But his office has not confirmed that engagement, and Tillerson's refusal to attend the long-planned NATO talks has raised questions about the United States' commitment to its allies.