15 Jul 2016

May gives Johnson the thumbs up, but the world gives the thumbs down

8:31 am on 15 July 2016

Politicians and newspapers around the world have been reacting to Boris Johnson's appointment as UK Foreign Secretary.

Boris Johnson

The world has reacted to the appointment of Brexit campaigner Boris Johnson as UK's Foreign Secretary. Photo: AFP

Many were surprised new post-Brexit British Prime Minister Theresa May had given him the role, citing his history of faux pas including insulting the president of Turkey and commenting on the US president's ancestry.

One EU source told the BBC: "Everyone in the European Parliament thinks it's a bad joke and that the Brits have lost it."

And the Washington Post noted that just two months ago "a poem he concocted about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan having sexual congress with a goat won the first-place prize in a contest sponsored by Spectator magazine".

However, a Turkish official suggested Ankara would draw a line under Mr Johnson's previous remarks.

"His negative comments on Erdogan and Turkey are unacceptable ... However we're sure of one thing, that British-Turkish relations re more important than that and can't be hostage to these statements," he said.

It has been reported that Mr Johnson has some Turkish ancestry.

France's Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, has said Mr Johnson "lied" to the British during the Brexit Campaign.

France's Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, has said Mr Johnson "lied" to the British during the Brexit Campaign. Photo: AFP

And France's Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told Europe 1 radio Mr Johnson lied to the British people during the recent referendum in which Britain voted to leave the European Union, and he would now be under pressure "to defend his country".

He said France needed a negotiating partner who was credible and reliable.

Mr Johnson, the former mayor of London, led the Leave campaign.

He was expected to stand for the Conservative party leadership in the wake of the referendum result when David Cameron resigned, but did not put himself forward after key colleagues withdrew support.

Mr Ayrault said, "I am not at all worried about Boris Johnson, but you know his style, his method during the campaign - he lied a lot to the British people".

"[He has] his back against the wall to defend his country but also with his back against the wall the relationship with Europe should be clear.

"I need a partner with whom I can negotiate and who is clear, credible and reliable.

"We cannot let this ambiguous, blurred situation drag on... in the interests of the British themselves."

French Ambassador to Britain, Sylvie Bermann (L) listens as British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson speaks as he attends during a reception at the French Ambassador's residence in west London on July 14, 2016.

French Ambassador Sylvie Bermann with Mr Johnson at a reception at the French Ambassador's residence on 14 July. Photo: AFP

Mr Johnson said it was "inevitable there will be some plaster coming off the ceilings in the chancelleries of Europe. It was not the result they were expecting and they are making their views known in a frank and free way".

"The French Foreign Minister has, in fact, sent me a charming letter just a couple of hours ago saying how much he looked forward to working together and deepening Anglo-French cooperation in all sorts of areas, and that is what we want to achieve."

Former Mayor of London, and pro-Brexit supporter, Boris Johnson, rides his bicycle through Westminster in central London on July 6, 2016.

Mr Johnson riding his bicycle in central London last week. Photo: AFP

How Britain's new Foreign Secretary has insulted the world

Johnson and the US

His new role will inevitably take him to meet officials in the country of his birth, and to deal with its next president. Only one problem there (depending on who wins the election in November)...

On Hillary Clinton (in 2007)

"She's got dyed blonde hair and pouty lips, and a steely blue stare, like a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital."

On Donald Trump

"I am genuinely worried that he could become president," Mr Johnson said in March. "I was in New York and some photographers were trying to take a picture of me and a girl walked down the pavement towards me and she stopped and she said, 'Gee, is that Trump?'

"It was one of the worst moments."

He has also accused Mr Trump of being "out of his mind" and of possessing "stupefying ignorance".

On Iran

In a 2006 column, he said he supported Iran having the nuclear bomb, saying it was "the only sure-fire means of protecting my country, and my poor huddled constituents...from the possibility of an attack by America."

While he acknowledges this was at a time the US was fighting two wars, it's fair to say Mr Johnson's opinion here is... unconventional.

On Syria

After Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's troops, bolstered by Russian forces, reclaimed the ancient city of Palmyra from the self-styled Islamic State group, Mr Johnson was fulsome in his praise.

He wrote that "any sane person should feel a sense of satisfaction at what Assad's troops have accomplished", but maintained that Assad was "a monster, a dictator".

On Putin

In a column last December, Mr Johnson compared Vladimir Putin to Dobby the House Elf, the Harry Potter character.

In May, Mr Johnson also called into question the EU's role in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, where Russia is widely accused of backing the rebels who control much of the region.

"If you want an example of EU foreign policymaking on the hoof and the EU's pretensions to running a defence policy that have caused real trouble, then look at what has happened in Ukraine," he told reporters.

On Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he hoped Mr Johnson's appointment would signal a new start for UK-Russia ties.

Reminded of Mr Johnson's comments, Mr Peskov said: "The weight of his current position will certainly, probably, provoke a different kind of rhetoric of a more diplomatic character."

In Japan

Travelling to a country on a trade visit and responding by violently flattening a 10-year-old boy is perhaps not diplomacy at its greatest.

On Papua New Guinea

Some things never change: in 2006, the Labour party was (again) in the middle of another leadership crisis. And Boris was (again) apologising for more offensive comments - this time in relation to Labour's troubles.

He wrote: "For 10 years we in the Tory Party have become used to Papua New Guinea-style orgies of cannibalism and chief-killing, and so it is with a happy amazement that we watch as the madness engulfs the Labour Party."

Papua New Guinea's High Commissioner in London was not happy.

-BBC

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