'Ottoman' Boris Johnson makes first visit to Turkey since Erdogan poem
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British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson holds a joint news conference with Turkey's European Union Affairs Minister Omer Celik in Ankara, Turkey, September 26, 2016. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
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By Ece Toksabay
ANKARA (Reuters) - British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on Monday kicked off his first official visit to Ankara by highlighting his "proud ownership" of a Turkish washing machine and steered clear of his past prize-winning insults of President Tayyip Erdogan.
Johnson, the former mayor of London, was named in May as the winner of the Spectator magazine's "President Tayyip Erdogan Offensive Poetry competition" for a five-line entry that involved the Turkish president, wild oats and a goat.
Two months later, Prime Minister Theresa May tapped Johnson as foreign secretary, prompting concern about a rift with Ankara. A senior Turkish official said at the time Turkey would draw a line under Johnson's past comments, but warned relations would be damaged if he repeated such insults - a message the foreign secretary seems to have taken to heart.
"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," Johnson told reporters at a news conference in Ankara on Monday, as Turkish EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik sat smiling next to him.
He said he saw a new partnership between the two countries following the Brexit vote, where the United Kingdom opted to leave the European Union and in which Johnson played a key role.
Celik hailed the Oxford-educated former journalist's Turkish roots, referring to him as an "Ottoman" and a strong supporter of Turkey in the aftermath its failed July 15 coup.
Johnson's great-grandfather was an opposition figure in the late Ottoman period and was lynched during Turkey's War of Independence in the early 1920s.
Johnson said he hoped British tourists - who traditionally flock to Turkey's Mediterranean beaches in the summer - "behaved themselves" in the country.
He is due to meet President Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday.
(Additional reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Andrew Roche)
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