Boris Johnson is foreign secretary: The world reacts

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Boris Johnson playing rugby in JapanImage source, AFP
Image caption,
Mr Johnson raised eyebrows by flattening a Japanese schoolboy in a game of rugby last year

Newspapers and politicians around the world have been reacting to Boris Johnson's appointment as UK foreign secretary.

Many were surprised, citing his history of faux pas including insulting the president of Turkey and commenting on the US president's ancestry.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said in a radio interview Mr Johnson was a liar with "his back against the wall".

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

Here we take a look at the response in countries where Mr Johnson will now represent the UK.

United States

The Washington Post publishes a round-up of "undiplomatic" things Mr Johnson has said during his time in public life.

"To be sure, Johnson is an unusual candidate for the job. The former journalist is known for his deliberately provocative manner, ruffled appearance and penchant for sometimes-insulting commentary," it says.

It reminds its readers 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."

Image source, Washington Post

Washington Post writer Ishaan Tharoor also writes that Mr Johnson "has controversially bucked the Western trend and praised Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for battling the Islamic State, no matter its parallel campaign of violence on Syria's civilian population".

"A Short History of Boris Johnson Insulting Foreign Leaders" is how the website of American culture and politics magazine, The Atlantic, reports the story of Mr Johnson's comeback.

"The brash and flamboyant politician, the UK's new foreign secretary, is one of the more cosmopolitan figures on the world stage - but he's also one of the least diplomatic," it says.

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Mark Toner, US state department spokesman: "We look forward to engaging with Boris Johnson"

Apparently stifling a laugh on hearing the news of Mr Johnson's new job, state department spokesman Mark Toner said the US would always work with the UK because of the "special relationship" between the two countries.

"This is a relationship that goes beyond personalities and it is an absolutely critical moment in England's history but also in the US-UK relationship," he says.


Image source, Le Figaro

In comments to Europe 1 radio, Mr Ayrault said: "I am not at all worried about Boris Johnson, but... during the [referendum] campaign he lied a lot to the British people and now it is he who has his back against the wall."

Newspaper Le Figaro says Mr Johnson "gives the impression of being guided by opportunism".

The newspaper says the UK's new foreign secretary's political career has seen him change his mind on gay marriage and on Turkey joining the EU.

Pierre Jova writes in the paper: "Although, he has a 'clown' image which delighted the tabloids with his antics and punchy statements, he was a comrade of David Cameron at Eton and Oxford and is a pure product of the British conservative aristocracy raised to govern."


Ralf Stegner, deputy leader of the SPD party, said: "[Prime Minister Theresa] May seems to be weaker through making such an appointment." He said Mr Johnson had hardly demonstrated that he was an outstanding diplomat. "Now he is negotiating Brexit. Have a nice trip."

Green Party leader Simone Peter said it was "not a good signal" if Mr Johnson "inflicted his capricious and monstrous approach" on Europe.

Der Spiegel took an editorial line against Brexit and published a "Please don't go" issue aimed at the UK in the run-up to its EU referendum.

The news magazine (in German) calls Mr Johnson a "controversial politician" and notes that his decision to support a Leave vote was a deciding factor in the referendum campaign, which Leave won with 52% of the vote.

One of its columnists, Jakob Augstein, commented: "Haha! Boris Johnson as foreign minister. I can't stop laughing. The Brits are crazy."

Image source, Der Spiegel

The German journalist Laura Schneider points to a certain amount of mirth on television as presenters announce Mr Johnson's new role.

Image source, @alauraschneider

Under the headline: "Why the disloyal jack of all trades is not the absurd choice", Die Welt thinks it knows why Mrs May appointed him.

"He described Hillary Clinton as a "sadistic nurse", compared the EU with Hitler. And now Boris Johnson is the British foreign secretary. But the new prime minister is pursuing a plan… she [Mrs May] incapacitated her anti-EU critics by making them accountable. Now Brexit advocates must ensure that the exit succeeds," it says.

The deputy editor of Germany's biggest tabloid, Bild, Nikolaus Blome, tweeted: "There's justice after all. As foreign minister, Boris Johnson, now has to lie in the bed he made himself."


The head of the Russian State Duma's foreign affairs committee, Aleksey Pushkov, tweets that Mr Johnson's predecessor, Philip Hammond, has "painful anti-Russian complexes" that he hopes Mr Johnson does not share.

Image source, @Alexey_Pushkov

Mr Hammond said last year that Russia had the potential to be "the single greatest threat" to UK security and that President Vladimir Putin was "bent not on joining the international rules-based system which keeps the peace between nations, but on subverting it".

The Russian news website calls Mr Johnson "one of the most eccentric politicians in the UK" and says he "knows how to surprise".

Image source,


Image source, Haber Turk

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 are more important than that and can't be hostage to these statements," he said.

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Binali Yildirim: 'May God help' Boris Johnson

Speaking before Mr Johnson's appointment, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the former London mayor had made an "unfortunate statement" when he used Turkey's accession to the EU negatively in the referendum.

Asked what he would like to say to Mr Johnson, he said: "May God help him and reform him."

The pro-government Daily Sabah described the new foreign secretary (who has Turkish ancestry) as being "anti-Turkey" and said he had "sympathy for the PKK".

Pro-government newspaper commentator Selim Atalay sent a tweet to Johnson saying: "Dear @BorisJohnson I understand you need well-versed apologies in Turkish. I can help you with that. PS: Turkish roots-card won't work. Cheers."


Image source, Fairfax Media

Sydney Morning Herald foreign editor Maher Mughrabi writes that Boris Johnson has been "removed from Conservative Party plotting at Westminster and allowed to get on with being a travelling circus". The rest of the world, he says, can rely on Mr Johnson to "confidently lecture people of many nations on their own histories and cultures".

Former prime minister Tony Abbott takes a more benign view:

Image source, @TonyAbbottMHR


The former prime minister of Sweden, Carl Bildt, tweets that he wishes the appointment were a joke.

Image source, @carlbildt

MEP Fredrick Federley tweeted: "Trump, Brexit, Pokemon Go, Boris Johnson. Oh lord, what horrors will you bring us tomorrow?"

Czech Republic

Image source, Twitter

Czech MEP Pavel Telicka tweeted: "People say PM May does not have a sense of humour. By appointing B Johnson she proved the opposite."

Financial news website describes the appointment of Mr Johnson as "at the very least questionable and very surprising. She has appointed to the post of foreign minister one of the leaders of Brexit, former London mayor Boris Johnson, who is famous, among other things, for his often extremely 'undiplomatic' conduct."