Tillerson to travel to Turkey, Brussels

Indo Asian News Service

Washington, March 25 (IANS) US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will travel to Turkey and then to the NATO headquarters in Brussels aiming to quell a controversy caused by the announcement that he would not attend a meeting of the alliance's foreign ministers.

Tillerson "will visit NATO headquarters in Brussels on March 31. The visit will take place after his trip to Ankara, Turkey," a State Department spokeswoman told Efe news on Friday.

The spokeswoman did not say if that meant the US had agreed with NATO to hold the meeting of the alliance's foreign ministers on March 31 rather than at the beginning of April as planned in order to fit in with Tillerson's schedule.

"We'll soon provide details about his agenda," she added.

Last week, the State Department announced that Tillerson would not attend the NATO foreign ministers' meeting, something very unusual for a US Secretary of State and which has not happened since 2003.

According to several media reports, the decision was taken due to the possible conflict of the NATO meeting with the next visit to the US of Chinese President Xi Jinping, for which April 6-7 are rumoured as the possible dates.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner would only say that the date of the NATO meeting was in conflict with Tillerson's schedule, adding that the department was speaking with the NATO secretary general to see if the date of the meeting could be changed.

As for Tillerson's visit to Turkey, the State Department provided no details, though bilateral conversations are expected to focus on the fight against the Islamic State (IS) and the conflict in Syria, among other issues.