Boris Johnson promises to help Gambia rejoin the Commonwealth
Boris Johnson has promised to help Gambia rejoin the Commonwealth as he visited the West African nation.
The Foreign Secretary, who became the first holder of his post to visit the country, said he wanted it readmitted to the Commonwealth as fast as possible.
The move, under Gambia's new president Adama Barrow, could see the country rejoin the international group within months.
Gambia left the Commonwealth in 2013 under former leader Yahya Jammeh, but he went into exile in January after international pressure to accept his election defeat.
His democratically elected successor, President Barrow, has signalled that the country will return to multinational bodies, with Gambia reversing its process of withdrawal from the International Criminal Court, as well as announcing its intention to rejoin the Commonwealth.
Following talks with Mr Barrow, the Foreign Secretary said: "I am delighted to say that The Gambia is now on the path back into the Commonwealth and we will try and do that as fast as possible."
He promised help on education, infrastructure, security and tourism as he hailed the "very close relations" between the two countries.
"This is an opportunity for us now to strengthen those relations, to build on our long-standing friendship and partnership," he said.
A Commonwealth Secretariat spokesman said: "We welcome any effort being made by the newly democratically elected government of The Gambia to try to rejoin the Commonwealth.
"Should it decide to apply, we have formal processes which have to be undertaken and membership agreed by the 52 heads of government.
"When The Gambia left the Commonwealth in 2013, the heads of government, meeting in Colombo in Sri Lanka that year, noted its decision with regret. We looked forward to the country's eventual return because it was part of our very close-knit family and our doors have always remained open."