Boris Johnson downplays insulting Erdogan on first Turkey visit
British foreign minister Boris Johnson brushed off an offensive poem he wrote about Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan as mere "trivia", while on his first trip to Turkey as the UK's top diplomat.
The maverick former London mayor, who in May won a competition for penning the most offensive poem about Turkey's leader, said he was "delighted" that the poem had not been mentioned in his talks with Turkish officials.
"As for the trivia that you raised... it has not come up at all," he said, referring to the poem.
"In fact I am not remotely surprised that it hasn't come up, that nobody has seen fit to raise it until you did," he told a journalist at a news conference alongside Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
|That poem in full
There was a young fellow from Ankara
While stressing the importance of the Britain-Turkey relationship in the post-Brexit vote world, Johnson added that the Jaffa Cake treats "that I grew up on as a child" were now owned by Turkish confectionary giant Ulker.
Jaffa cakes and offensive poems aside, Johnson also moved onto more pressing topics of foreign policy. Thankfully for the British envoy, this meant he perhaps dodged some awkward questions about his lewd limerick - or indeed about his favourite chocolate and orange cakes.
Regarding the US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen - who Ankara holds responsible for the failed coup - Johnson
said that the former Erdogn ally's group seems "to have many aspects of a cult". He also vowed that he would take action against Gulenist-linked groups in Britain.
"We have to look now very seriously at the implications for so-called Gulenist organisations in our country," he added.
This cordial first visit to the country he described as "the land of my fathers" perhaps marks a new chapter in Johnson's approach to world leaders - a change perhaps also ushered in by Britain's expected departure from the EU.
Johnson also said the UK would support Turkey becoming a member of the 27-nation (soon, perhaps to be 26-nation) trading bloc, despite leading the Brexit campaign by stoking fears - within a national debate already marked by xenophobia - that Turkey's potential EU membership would lead to the mass migration of "millions" of Turks to Britain.
Such remarks were deemed "utterly shameful" by opposition campaigners at the time.
Turkey - whose military continues to maintain a large presence in northern Cyprus following Ankara's invasion of the island in 1974, despite several UN Security Council condemnations - is still a long way from meeting the stringent criteria required for joining the European Union.