Washington, Feb 2: Things turned sour between US President Donald Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during a phone call over the weekend, when Trump objected to an agreement reached upon during the Obama administration over the United States receiving refugees from Australia.
Trump's apparent dispute with Turnbull came on on Saturday, the same day when he held phone calls with four other world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin.
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 centres off the mainland.
Many of them are from the seven Muslim majority 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. On 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!"
Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 2, 2017
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. According to CNN, 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 be sent across.
Turnbull declined to comment on reports in the Washington Post of having had described the agreement as "the worst deal ever" and of accusing Turnbull of seeking to export the "next Boston bombers."
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. White House press secretary Sean Spicer did not return requests for comments regarding the call.
Turnbull said the call ended "courteously" in a radio interview Thursday.
Australia has been an long-standing ally of the US, with the two countries joining three other English-speaking nations in an intelligence sharing arrangement known as the "Five Eyes."