President Donald Trump reportedly cut short a phone call with the leader of staunch US ally Australia, casting doubt over his commitment to a refugee resettlement deal.
Trump later took to Twitter asking: “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) 2 février 2017
According to the Washington Post, Trump accused Australia of trying to export the “next Boston bombers” and on a day in which he had spoken to other world leaders including Russia’s Vladimir Putin, he is said to have angrily told Malcolm Turnbull that this call was “the worst so far”.
“This was the worst call by far:” Trump brags, badgers and then abruptly ends call with Australia’s prime minister https://t.co/fLVcOrpcol— Washington Post (@washingtonpost) 2 février 2017
The Washington Post said the call had been scheduled to last an hour but Trump cut it short after 25 minutes, having taken time to boast about the size of his electoral college win in November’s US election.
The Australian premier is saying little, other than his belief that the deal still stands.
“I appreciate your interest but it is better that these things, these conversations, are conducted candidly, frankly, privately,” Turnbull told reporters on Thursday.
“If you see reports of them, I am not going to add to them.”
In a refugee swap agreed under former President Obama, the US would resettle up to 1,250 asylum seekers from offshore processing camps in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.
Many are from countries like Iraq and Iran, targeted in Trump’s controversial immigration crackdown which restricts entry to the US from seven Muslim-majority countries.
In return, Australia would resettle refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
The apparent breakdown between Washington and Canberra could have serious repercussions.
Australia and the United States are among the five nations that make up the Five Eyes group, the world’s leading intelligence-sharing network.
The United States also plans to send extra military aircraft to Australia’s tropical north this year as part of a US Marines deployment to bolster its military presence close to the disputed South China Sea.