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Britain’s Johnson in Turkey dismisses Erdogan poem as ‘trivia’

British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson gestures as he delivers a speech during a joint press conference with the Turkish Foreign Minister  following their meeting on September 27, 2016 in Ankara. / AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN

British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson gestures as he delivers a speech during a joint press conference with the Turkish Foreign Minister following their meeting on September 27, 2016 in Ankara. / AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN

British foreign minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday brushed off as “trivia” an offensive poem he wrote about President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as he talked up the strength of Ankara-London ties on his first visit to Turkey as top diplomat.

Johnson, who is of partly Turkish ancestry, described Turkey as “the land of my fathers” and emphasised that some of his relatives had even worked in the foreign ministry.

The flamboyant former London mayor, who helped lead the successful campaign for Britain to leave the EU, had in May penned the winning entry in a competition on offensive poetry about Erdogan, published by the conservative British magazine The Spectator.

But he said he was “delighted” the poem had not come up at all during talks since he arrived in Turkey earlier this week.

He said what people in Turkey most wanted to hear after the failed July 15 coup was “about our committment to Turkey… and that is very strong.”

“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 counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu.

Underlining the strength of the Britain-Turkey relationship even after the vote to leave the EU, he noted that the iconic Jaffa Cakes biscuits “that I grew up on as a child” were now owned by Turkish confectionary giant Ulker.

He said the group of the US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen — which Ankara blames for the failed coup — “seems to me to have many aspects of a cult” and vowed to take action if necessary against affiliated groups in Britain.

“We have to look now very seriously at the implications for so-called Gulenist organisations in our country,” he added.



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