NATO confirms Rex Tillerson meeting Friday

Next week, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will visit Moscow for talks with the government of President Vladimir Putin, Assad's main military and diplomatic backer in Syria's six-year-old civil war (AFP Photo/MANDEL NGAN) (AFP/File)

Brussels (AFP) - NATO said it has rescheduled a key meeting of foreign ministers for Friday after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was unable to make the original date next week.

"Meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers moved forward to 31 March," NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said on Twitter on Monday.

The NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels had been planned for April 5 and 6, but that was thrown into chaos last week when Tillerson revealed he would not be attending due to other commitments.

The State Department has confirmed that Tillerson would attend the rescheduled NATO talks if they could be held this Friday.

Diplomats have worked frantically in recent days to make the new date, with Britain revealing Monday that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson will delay a visit to Moscow to fit in with Tillerson.

"We have unfortunately had to postpone the foreign secretary’s visit to Russia planned this month due to rescheduling of the NATO foreign ministers meeting," a spokesman for Britain's Foreign Office said.

Johnson has spoken to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, "and looks forward to reinstating his visit as soon as possible," he added.

The rescheduling drama shows the importance attached to Tillerson's first visit to NATO headquarters, amid doubts about the commitment of President Donald Trump's administration to transatlantic ties.