Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull attends a meeting at a hotel in Shanghai, China, April 14, 2016.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull attends a meeting at a hotel in Shanghai, China, April 14, 2016. Reuters/Aly Song

Australian leader Malcolm Turnbull said he declined New Zealand’s offer to take 150 refugees from Australia's offshore detention camps. The prime minister said the focus is to concentrate on the country’s imminent deal with the United States.

Turnbull said the offer from New Zealand has been available for some time. "It is one we appreciate but our focus is on completing the arrangements with the United States,” he told reporters on Saturday in Queenstown, New Zealand.

New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English confirmed Turnbull’s statement on Sunday, saying the offer has not been taken up. He also provided an assurance that the offer remains.

We just want to be clear that the offer remains there, but they've indicated their appreciation and that's about as far as it has gone,” English said. The New Zealand leader added that he decision is “entirely up to them.”

It’s not the first time that Turnbull has opted to turn down an offer to take refugees from the Manus Island offshore detention centre. Former New Zealand Prime Minister John Key made the same offer last year before he filed his resignation in December. However, the Australian government supposedly believes smugglers would see it as a marketing opportunity.

Turnbull’s administration has reportedly struck a deal with the United States to start screening the refugees on Manus Island and Nauru following the prime minister’s controversial phone call with US President Donald Trump. The White House said it would recognise the asylum-seeker deal, but US officials will vet refugees first before they will be allowed to resettle.

The prime minister said there is no expectation that the Land Down Under has to do something in return. "We assess all requests for military assistance on their merits and there is no linkage at all between an arrangement relating to refugee resettlement and any other matters,” he told Channel 9.

Turnbull and English met in Queenstown on the South Island on Friday. The two leaders attended a wreath laying ceremony. Turnbull also paid respect to the helicopter pilot who lost his life fighting a massive fire in nearby Christchurch."Obviously, we are very, very sad as you are, from the death of the helicopter pilot,” he said.

Their first annual leader's meeting was expected to centre on Christchurch fires and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement that involved both countries. Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam also signed for the 12-nation trade deal.