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Trump warmly welcomes Australia’s Turnbull to the White House


US President Donald Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (L) shake hands ahead of a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, February 23, 2018. SAUL LOEB / AFP

US President Donald Trump gave Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull an effusive welcome at the White House Friday, trying to put a heated first conversation in the rear mirror.

Trump strode out to greet Turnbull on the South Lawn and the pair shared a side-by-side stroll along the colonnade to the Oval Office, where they both sang the praises of a more than century old relationship.

“It’s an honor to have Prime Minister Turnbull, Mrs Turnbull, friends of mine and friends of Melania’s for actually quite some time,” Trump said, indicating that he would like to visit Australia soon.

“The relationship that we have with Australia is a terrific relationship and probably stronger now than ever before, maybe because of our relationship, our friendship,” Trump said.

It was not always so. The pair held an infamously bad-tempered telephone call early on in Trump’s presidency.

Officials say Trump exploded and hung up after he was told about a Barack Obama-era deal to move refugees from Australia to America.

Diplomats — and even mutual friend, golfer Greg Norman — rushed to repair the damage.

– Longtime war allies –

Australia has fought alongside the United States in every modern war, including Vietnam, and is a key part of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing network.

The United States remains one of Australia’s largest trading partners and, seen from Canberra, a vital counterbalance to growing Chinese assertiveness in Asia-Pacific.

Turnbull, a former Goldman Sachs banker, thanked Trump and Melania for their “hospitality and friendship.”

“It’s 100 years of mateship we are celebrating, 100 years since the first time American and Australian soldiers went into battle together,” he said.

This year marks the centennial of the Battle of Hamel, on France’s Western Front, when troops from both countries fought under Australian command.

“We have been fighting side-by-side in freedom’s cause ever since,” Turnbull added. “100 more to come.”

The pair have met since the infamous call, most notably last May aboard the Intrepid, moored in New York City.

That military and Hollywood-tinged pow-wow was designed to appeal to America’s showbiz-inclined president.

Getting down to business, Trump said that the pair would discuss “trade deals, we are working on military and protection and all of the things that we would be discussing.”

Turnbull will however have one eye on events at home. During his time in Washington his deputy prime minister resigned after successive scandals over sex, abuse, his citizenship and a threat to euthanize dogs belonging to Hollywood actor Johnny Depp.

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