Turkey minister slams 'Anti-Turkish' Brexit rhetoric
September 26, 2016
The new British foreign secretary has begun a controversial state visit to Turkey. He is scheduled to meet with Turkish officials, including President Erdogan, whom he mocked in an offensive poem earlier this year.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson began a three-day state visit to Turkey on Monday.
After visiting refugee camps on the Turkish border with Syria, Johnson is scheduled to travel to Ankara on Tuesday to hold talks with Turkish officials, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Johnson also said that Britain will continue to support Turkey's bid to join the bloc, even after Britain itself leaves.
Britain had been one of the most vocal supporters for Turkish accession to EU before voting to leave the bloc in June. However, previous remarks made by Johnson, who is partly of Turkish ancestory, have cast an awkward shadow over the visit.
The Brexit campaign, which Johnson fronted, used the possibility of Turkish accession to the EU, along with the prospect of millions of Turks being allowed to live freely in Britain, as reason to leave the bloc.
Speaking ahead of a meeting with Johnson on Monday evening, Turkey's EU affairs minister, Omer Celik, criticized the "anti-Turkish rhetoric" of the Brexit campaign and said that the two countries "have to close this ugly parenthesis and look to the future."
Relations between Europe and Turkey have been marred since the failed coup attempt in July. European leaders have expressed concerns over Ankara's stringent crackdown and the arrests of thousands of alleged plotters.
In May, Johnson penned an offensive poem about Erdogan, winning a competition organized by the conservative British magazine, The Spectator, in solidarity with German comedian Jan Böhmermann.
Turkish officials signaled that they were, nevertheless, ready to move forward with diplomatic relations. British-Turkish ties are too important to be hostage to Johnson's previous statements, they said.
"Turkey is a vital partner to the UK," Johnson tweeted ahead of his trip. "Pleased to visit for first time as Foreign Sec for talks with Govt, civil society & Syrian Opposition."
Visit to refugee camps on Syrian border
Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reported that Johnson, who is partly of Turkish ancestry, landed in the city of Gaziantep on the first leg of his state visit on Monday , before traveling to the neighboring town of Nizip.
Johnson visited refugee camps in both towns. Turkish broadcaster NTV showed footage of the new British foreign secretary visiting the camps, both of which house thousands of Syrians. He also visited a nursery and school in the Nizip camp, and chatted with a number of refugee families.
Anadolu reported that Johnson also watched a group of Syrians trained in detecting and defusing improvised explosive devices display their skills in an empty field nearby.
More than 3 million Syrian migrants are living in Turkey, as their home country continues to be devastated by a long and bloody civil war.