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Boris Johnson: How Britain's new foreign secretary has insulted the world

A mural showing US Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump (L) kissing the former Mayor of London and Conservative MP, Boris Johnson, on the side of a building in Stokes Croft area of Bristol, south west England on May 24, 2016 Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Boris isn't quite this affectionate with Trump: he has accused him of "stupefying ignorance"

In case you have just emerged from a desert island or a long sleep: the UK has a new prime minister, Theresa May, who in turn has appointed a new foreign secretary.

The man who will be representing Britain's interests abroad is Boris Johnson. Yes, that Boris Johnson, the tousle-haired, barrel-bellied engineer of the UK's exit from the EU.

It's an appointment that's been treated with some shock around the world - not least because he has been less than diplomatic about other countries and their leaders before.

Some of his positions, often outlined in his newspaper columns, also risk clashing with his own government's official stance.

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Image caption Meet Britain's new representative on the world stage

Boris on Africa

On Tony Blair visiting Africa, in 2002: "What a relief it must be for Blair to get out of England. It is said that the Queen has come to love the Commonwealth, partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies...

"They say he is shortly off to the Congo. No doubt the AK47s will fall silent, and the pangas will stop their hacking of human flesh, and the tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief touch down in his big white British taxpayer-funded bird."

Mr Johnson apologised for the comments in 2008, during his successful campaign to be mayor of London.

But it's not the only time he has used the term "piccaninnies", a derogatory word for black children.

On the effects of colonialism in Uganda (in 2002): "If left to their own devices, the natives would rely on nothing but the instant carbohydrate gratification of the plantain."

On Barack Obama's decision to remove a bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office (in March this year)

"No one was sure whether the President had himself been involved in the decision. Some said it was a snub to Britain. Some said it was a symbol of the part-Kenyan President's ancestral dislike of the British empire - of which Churchill had been such a fervent defender."

Mr Obama then spoke out over Mr Johnson's comments.

Boris on Turkey's president

Image caption Mr Johnson's poem refers to a goat, that's all we're saying

Earlier this year, Turkey pushed for the prosecution of a German comedian who composed an obscene poem about President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In response, the British magazine The Spectator ran a competition asking readers to submit an offensive poem about Mr Erdogan - a competition won by Mr Johnson.

While we can't print the poem in full, you can read it here - suffice to say, it includes a creative rhyme for "Ankara".

Mr Johnson has Turkish ancestry - but that is something he's been advised against exploiting.

Pro-government newspaper commentator Selim Atala tweeted: "Dear @BorisJohnson I understand you need well-versed apologies in Turkish. I can help you with that. PS: Turkish roots-card won't work."

Boris 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".

Boris on Putin

Image copyright Warner Bros
Image caption Dobby the House Elf, presented without comment

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

While criticising Mr Putin, he has also praised his role in Russia and called for more co-operation with Moscow.

(Mr Johnson's predecessor as foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, had criticised Russia for targeting civilians by bombing hospitals and schools in Syria.)

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."

Boris and 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.

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Media captionBoris Johnson apologised to the boy afterwards

Boris 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)...

Boris on Hillary Clinton

"She's got dyed blonde hair and pouty lips, and a steely blue stare, like a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital." - in 2007

Boris 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's also accused Mr Trump of being "out of his mind" and of possessing "stupefying ignorance".

Boris on Iran

In a 2006 column, he said he supported Iran having the nuclear bomb, saying it was "the 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.

Boris 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.

And what Boris is like abroad...

Staff at the Foreign Office may have their hands full, if one report is anything to go by.

"Foreign Office staff had to pick up a hotel bar tab, stop Mr Johnson from driving a sports car out of a showroom and arrange last-minute tours when the mayor of London travelled to Erbil, in the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, in January 2015," the FT reported.

While his visit did lead to more deals struck in Kurdistan, it reportedly proved a diplomatic headache. At one point, the FT said, Mr Johnson insisted on visiting the front line in the fight against IS.

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