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NATO Moves Ministerial Meeting To Accommodate Tillerson

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (file photo)

BRUSSELS -- NATO has confirmed that the bloc's foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels has been resheduled for March 31.

NATO sources also told RFE/RL on March 27 that a NATO-Russia Council session is being planned for March 30.

The NATO ministerial meeting was supposed to take place on April 5-6. However, when it became clear that the new U.S. secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, would skip the meeting, NATO scrambled to set another date.

Tillerson's decision to skip the April 5-6 meeting -- his first opportunity to meet with foreign ministers from the 27 other NATO-member countries -- raised concerns among some European officials about the new U.S. administration's commitment to the alliance, particularly since Tillerson has announced plans to visit Moscow shortly after that date.

Tillerson said he was unable to attend the original NATO ministerial meeting because he planned to participate in a summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping in the U.S. state of Florida.

Under the new schedule, Tillerson will travel to Brussels a day after a meeting in Ankara with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The day before the ministerial meeting, NATO plans a NATO-Russia Council session on the ambassadorial level, according to diplomats familiar with the talks.

It will be the first NATO-Russia Council meeting of 2017, after three similar meetings in 2016.

NATO suspended all practical cooperation with Russia after Moscow's 2014 invasion and annexation of the Ukrainian region of Crimea, but the political channels remain open via the NATO-Russia Council.

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