During a press conference with his counterpart on Tuesday, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said that much to his surprise, until a journalist asked about a poem he wrote to mock President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, no official brought up the issue.
Speaking at a press briefing with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu during his first visit to Turkey in his capacity as the UK’s top diplomat, Johnson was asked whether he would apologize for a poem he penned that led to a controversy in Turkey. In response to the journalist, Johnson said it was not an issue while adding that he was also surprised that it was not brought up.
Johnson had been named winner of Spectator magazine’s “President Tayyip Erdogan Offensive Poetry Competition” in May for a five-line entry that involved the Turkish president.
While Turkish authorities, who are becoming increasingly more intolerant of the slightest criticism, particularly of President Erdoğan, chose to overlook Johnson’s poem, Erdoğan also received him in his palace on Tuesday. Erdoğan has become notorious for suing thousands of people including students and the handicapped for their criticism allegedly insulting him.
Despite the UK’s decision to leave the European Union as a result of the “Brexit” vote in June, Johnson vowed to support Turkey’s bid for EU membership as well as its counterterrorism efforts.
“We may be leaving the European Union, but we are not leaving Europe,” Johnson pointed out before promising help to Turkey.
Meanwhile, on Monday European Union Affairs Minister Ömer Çelik had vaguely brought up the “anti-Turkish rhetoric” in the UK during the Brexit campaign while suggesting the “ugly parenthesis” be ended.
Johnson’s great-grandfather was from the town of Kalfat in Çankırı province and was an opposition figure in the late Ottoman period who was lynched during Turkey’s War of Independence in the early 1920s.
In an effort to praise Turkey, Johnson said after his arrival in Turkey on Monday that “we are happy in the United Kingdom to be one of the biggest recipients of Turkish goods. I am the proud owner of a digital, very well functioning, Turkish washing machine.”