U.S., Australia have ‘very strong’ relationship despite reports of tense phone call

A reminder that despite all the preparations and efforts by the Canadian government to meet the Trump challenge, there is a high degree of unpredictability at play, and a real challenge for the first Trump-Trudeau meeting:

Australia’s prime minister said his country’s relationship with the United States remained “very strong” but refused to comment on a newspaper report on Thursday that an angry President Donald Trump cut short their first telephone call as national leaders.

At the heart of the weekend conversation between Trump and 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.

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.”

The Boston Bombers refer to Tamerlan and Dhozkar Tsarnaev, U.S. citizens born in Kyrgyzstan, who set off two bombs at the 2013 Boston marathon, killing three and injuring more than 260 people.

Turnbull 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.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull wouldn’t go into details about his phone call with the U.S. president, only saying ‘I can assure you the relationship is very strong.’ (David Gray/Reuters)

“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 honour the agreement 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. Australia has refused to accept them and instead pays for them to be housed on the impoverished islands.

“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.”

Hours after the Washington Post story was published — and after Turnbull’s comments — Trump took to Twitter to slam the deal.

“Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why?” Trump tweeted. “I will study this dumb deal!”

Source: U.S., Australia have ‘very strong’ relationship despite reports of tense phone call – World – CBC News

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About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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