German conservatives willing to enter coalition talks with SPD

Меркель і Шульц провели перші коаліційні переговори

"The reports are plainly and simply wrong", said the SPD leader, Martin Schulz, after claims in the German newspaper Bild that the two parties had agreed to begin exploratory talks on a new coalition following a meeting with the German president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, on Thursday.

The interview was published as Mr Schulz denied reports that his party was ready to enter negotiations of forming a new coalition on Friday, and accused Mrs Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) of leaking false information to the media.

However, SPD party leadership announced that it would give a formal recommendation on how to proceed to its members by Monday.

Merkel's party stressed however that was it was seeking is a renewal of its alliance with the SPD, to form a "stable government" for Europe's biggest economy.

Angela Merkel faces demands for sweeping European Union reform and further integration as the price of a new coalition government in Germany, it emerged on Friday.

After suffering its worst ever general election result, the SPD declared it would not reprise its role as junior partner to Merkel and wanted instead to rebuild in opposition.

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"I can completely repudiate the rumor that any green light has been given", Schulz said.

Ahead of that congress, which will also decide whether to re-elect Schulz as chief of the SPD, the party's top brass has been careful to tread softly regarding its options. "And the initiatives the French president has taken must not be answered with a constant "no" or with silence from Berlin", he said.

Schulz, a former president of the European Parliament, has said he wants changes in Germany's approach to the European Union and in economic and social policy.

Other options apart from a grand coalition include a minority conservative government - which the SPD could support on a case-by-case basis, or fresh elections.

"If necessary, we will put in a motion to rule out a grand coalition", he said.

"There was a broad consensus about not closing down any options concerning the formation of a new government", Schulz told reporters.

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