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Boris backed by US, seeks Syria solution, but given no trade guarantees

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson refused Tuesday to apologize for the withering one-liners he’s made about world leaders

Published: Updated:

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson refused Tuesday to apologize for the withering one-liners he’s made about world leaders in the past but won the support of Britain’s closest ally as the country navigates its difficult path out of the European Union.

But while US Secretary of State John Kerry gave his backing to Johnson, he warned that there could be no trade deals with the UK while it was still a member of the EU.

Referring to his history of comments about world leaders, Johnson, who was hosting Kerry in London, said people are “free to rake over” his past comments but that it would “take too long” to apologize to all those who might have been offended in the past by his “rich thesaurus” of comments.

He says now he’s focusing on dealing with issues like the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Syria and the troubles in Yemen.

“Those to my mind are far more important than any obiter dicta that you may dis-infer (from) 30 years of journalism,” Johnson said, referring to a term used in law to denote an incidental remark.

The 52-year-old Johnson once described Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton as “a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital.” He’s also mocked President Barack Obama’s ancestry and once wrote an extremely vulgar limerick about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Kerry for his part, rallied to Johnson’s defense, twice remarking on his intellect with fulsome praise. The US envoy also underscored his commitment to the “special relationship.”

“We continue to advance mutual interests and tackle shared challenges,” Kerry said.

Later the two men will hold talks on Syria with European ministers and discuss the conflict in Yemen with foreign ministers from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Meanwhile Kerry has said it is more important than ever for the European Union to strike a trade deal with the United States, adding there was no way for Britain to strike a trade pact with Washington before leaving the bloc.

Britain voted in a referendum last month to leave the EU but Prime Minister Theresa May’s new government has yet to decide on when to trigger formal exit talks.

Kerry said it would be “physically impossible” to cut a trade deal with the United Kingdom before it leaves the EU although he said after talks with new Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson that informal talks could begin earlier.

(With AP and Reuters)