CANBERRA, Australia – Australia’s prime minister said his country’s relationship with the United States remained “very strong” and 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.”
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.
“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.