Washington: A phone conversation between United States President Donald Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has turned into a cause of worry for both sides.
A transcript, published by the Washington Post on Thursday, showed Trump and Turnbull battling over a refugee-swap deal made between the Obama administration and Australia.
The Post account showed Turnbull almost begging Trump to take 1,250 to 2,000 refugees off Australia’s hands. A flustered Trump even said the conversation was “ridiculous.”
In an aftermath to this, Turnbull has faced sharp criticism in Australia for telling Trump that he could refuse refugees.
Turnbull on Friday said he was merely “standing up” for Australia. The White House said it would not comment on the leak.
“It has always been subject to American vetting procedures. That’s always been part of the arrangement,” he told reporters in his response, CNN reports.
The phone call was made just after Trump took office, and the U.S. President was fuming at Turnbull over the deal, which contradicts his election promise to ban people arriving in the U.S. from Muslim-majority nations and to suspend the country’s intake of refugees.
Turnbull tried to reassure the rattled President that each refugee would be subject to U.S. vetting, and that the U.S. could refuse anyone it chose to.
The deal relates to refugees held in Australia’s notorious offshore detention centers on the Pacific island of Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus island.
Australia detains asylum-seekers who try to come to the country by boat at these centers.
The arrival of refugees by boat is a highly politicised issue in Australia, and the deal with the U.S. was celebrated as a major political victory by Turnbull’s Liberal Party — Australia’s conservative party, which rules in a coalition. It would be a significant political loss if the deal were to fall through.