AUSTRALIA’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and US President Donald Trump “don’t have to be best friends” when they meet in New York on Thursday.
While Australia is a long-time, loyal ally of the US, relations were strained after an acrimonious phone call with the PM shortly after Trump’s inauguration. The meeting with Turnbull also marks Trump’s first visit to his hometown New York City since assuming office in January.
“They don’t have to be best friends, but of course they will be gracious towards each other,” Bishop told ABC Radio on Thursday morning, Australia time.
“I have no doubt that the prime minister and President Trump will find a lot in common, I’m sure they’ll get along well.”
Bishop did not elaborate on the focus of the bilateral talks.
The Thursday meeting will follow a speech by Trump aboard the USS Intrepid to anniversary of the Coral Sea battle, when US and Australian troops fought alongside each other against the Japanese in World War II.
Australia has fought alongside the US in several wars including in Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam.
Back in January, Trump blasted a refugee deal made with Australia under the Obama administration as “dumb” and hung up on Turnbull after 25 minutes in a call slated for one hour.
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
Having spoken to a number of other leaders including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump told Turnbull that “this was the worst call by far.”
To make matters worse, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer repeatedly called the Australian PM “Trumble” when discussing the refugee deal, noting Trump’s “immense respect” for his Australian counterpart and the country’s people.
Excuse me everyone, please enjoy White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer TWICE saying "Prime Minister TRUMBLE" pic.twitter.com/4JnpzucCbm
— Mark Di Stefano 🤙🏻 (@MarkDiStef) February 2, 2017
Australians netizens mocked Spicer and Turnbull alike.
As the PM arrived in New York, the joke again surfaced with a cartoonist for Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper drawing the follow cartoon which he posted to Twitter.
— Chris 'ROY' Taylor (@chrisroytaylor) May 4, 2017
American officials have attempted to smooth relations since February’s tense phone call.
Last month, Vice President Mike Pence on reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to the refugee deal struck between Australia and the Obama administration.
Under the deal inked in the final months of the previous presidency, the US will resettle 1,250 asylum seekers held in Australia’s offshore processing centres in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, while Australia will take in refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
“President Trump has made it clear we will honour the agreement, but it doesn’t mean we admire the agreement,” said Pence.