ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Visiting Turkey, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Tuesday that his hosts had not brought up the controversy caused by a rude poem he composed mocking Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Speaking at a joint news conference with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu, Johnson said his country hopes to sign a "new jumbo free trade deal" with Turkey after Britain leaves the European Union, adding that London would continue to support Turkey's EU membership bid.
"We may be disentangling ourselves from the treaties of the European Union, but we are not leaving Europe. It is vital to understand that we will remain, in the UK, passionate and committed supporters and proponents of Turkey and the Turkish cause," Johnson said.
In May, the former mayor of London caused a storm after he composed a vulgar limerick about Erdogan and won a British magazine's prize for it.
Johnson said the issue of the poem had not been raised during two days of meetings until a journalist asked during the news conference if he would apologize.
"As for the trivia you raised, much to my amazement, it has not come up at all. In fact, I am not remotely surprised that it hasn't come up, but nobody has seen fit to raise it until you did," Johnson responded without answering the question.
Johnson, who has Turkish ancestry, was speaking at Turkey's Foreign Ministry building where his great uncle and a cousin worked as diplomats.
"This is the land of my fathers," Johnson said. "This very ministry is the place where my relatives used to work."
The foreign secretary also told a reporter as he left the ministry that his ancestral home was the town of Kalfat, north of Ankara.
In an apparent bid to charm his hosts late on Monday, Johnson said he was the proud owner of a "beautiful, very well-functioning" Turkish-made washing machine.