US President Donald Trump met Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and declared they “get along great”, following a testy phone exchange earlier that strained ties between the two countries.
Both leaders met face to face aboard the aircraft carrier Intrepid in Manhattan on Thursday, the New York Times reported.
“We get along great. We have a fantastic relationship, I love Australia, I always have,” Trump told reporters who witnessed a portion of the meeting between the two politicians in a room near the ship’s main dining area.
The two attended a dinner aboard the Intrepid, now a museum docked in the Hudson River, to honour the 75th anniversary of the victory of the US and Australia over Japan in the Battle of the Coral Sea during World War II.
Their earlier encounter, an acrimonious first phone call in January, was spoiled by Trump’s hostile reaction to a deal with Australia that his predecessor Barack Obama negotiated in the final weeks of his second term.
In it, the US agreed to take in as many as 1,250 refugees that Australia was holding at offshore detention centres.
During that call, Trump told Turnbull that the agreement would hurt his new administration politically, officials said at the time.
The President said on Twitter after the phone conversation that the deal was “dumb” and that he would study it, raising concerns that the US might back out.
The White House later agreed to honour the agreement, provided the refugees were subject to “extreme vetting”. Since then, the two leaders have worked to move beyond the phone call.
“We can put the refugee deal behind you and move on,” Turnbull said on Thursday.
“It’s all worked out. It’s been worked out for a long time,” Trump added. “We had a great telephone call. You guys exaggerated that call. That was a big exaggeration. We’re not babies”.
Turnbull chuckled and said: “Young at heart”.
Trump sat near Turnbull at Thursday night’s event and gave a speech that heavily lauded the strong relationship or “mateship” between the two countries. “Our two nations were born as the rebellious children of the same parent.”
The pair was originally meant to meet in midtown Manhattan, but the introduction was delayed after Trump decided to remain in Washington to celebrate Republicans’ House vote on a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.
An official with the Australian government said the President’s decision to make Turnbull wait was “an amazing snub”, CNN reported. An American official denied it was a snub.