At the heart of the weekend conversation between US President Donald Trump and Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was a deal struck with the Obama administration that would allow mostly Muslim refugees rejected by Australia to be resettled in the United States, Joinfo.com reports with reference to Time magazine.
Turnbull declined to comment on reports in The Washington Post that Trump had described the agreement as “the worst deal ever” and accused Turnbull of seeking to export the “next Boston bombers.”
Australia’s PM also would not say whether Trump had abruptly ended the expected hour-long conversation after 25 minutes as the Australian attempted to steer the conversation to other topics.
“It’s better that these things — these conversations — are conducted candidly, frankly, privately,” Turnbull told reporters.
Turnbull said the strength of the bilateral relation was evident in that Trump agreed to resettle refugees from among around 1,600 asylum seekers, most of whom are on island camps on the Pacific nations of Nauru and Papua New Guinea.
“I can assure you the relationship is very strong,” Turnbull said. “The fact we received the assurance that we did, the fact that it was confirmed, the very extensive engagement we have with the new administration underlines the closeness of the alliance. But as Australians know me very well: I stand up for Australia in every forum — public or private.”
The Washington Post story immediately shot to the top of trending topics on Twitter in Australia. It was plastered across the top of Australia’s major news sites, and the nation’s news networks launched into lengthy, running commentaries on it.
Following new public details about a recent phone conversation with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, President Donald Trump took to Twitter late Wednesday to criticize a deal brokered between Canberra and the administration of former President Barack Obama to resettle some refugees in the United States.
Trump vowed to “study this dumb deal,” in which the previous administration agreed to accept 1,250 asylum seekers from Australian-run detention centers on the Pacific islands of Manus and Nauru—roughly half of the people who are stuck in limbo off the Australian coast. Australia refuses to accept them or even allow them to be processed on Australian soil.
CNN reported that the disagreement came as the two leaders discussed an agreement, reached under the Obama administration, for the US to accept refugees from Australia who are living on islands in detention centers off the mainland due to strict government policies.
Many of them are from the seven countries affected by Trump’s travel ban. Trump on Friday also suspended the entry of all refugees for 120 days, along with indefinitely suspending the entry of Syrian refugees.
Turnbull told Trump several times the agreement was for 1,250 refugees, not 2,000. He also said Australia was asking to submit them to the US for refugee screening, and if the refugees did not pass the US screening process, they would not come.
Trump expressed concern as to how this agreement from President Barack Obama’s administration would go forward given his executive order the day before temporarily suspending the US refugee program.
Trump abruptly ended the call because he was unhappy, a source told CNN. White House press secretary Sean Spicer did not return requests for comments regarding the call.
Thursday night, Trump tweeted, “Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!”
Sources say Trump insisted it was a very bad deal for the US to take 2,000 refugees and that one of them was going to be the next Boston bomber.
Turnbull said the call ended “courteously” in a radio interview Thursday. When asked about the tweet labeling the agreement brokered with Obama’s administration a “dumb deal,” Turnball said, while the deal may not have been one Trump would’ve done or considered a “good deal,” the President and his administration have committed to honor it.
Earlier this week, however, Spicer said the Trump administration would honor the agreement, saying the refugees would be submitted to “extreme vetting.”
Turnbull also told reporters Thursday that Trump assured him the US would take the refugees.
“Look, I’m not going to comment on a conversation between myself and the President of the United States other than what we have said publicly, and you can surely understand the reasons for that,” Turnbull said. “I’m sure you can understand that. It’s better these conversations are conducted candidly, frankly, privately. If you’ll see reports of them, I’m not going to add to them.”