Angela Merkel wants to end Turkey EU membership talks

The SPD’s hopeful Martin Schulz

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she wants to end European Union membership talks with Turkey, amid rising tensions between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries.

During the debate on Sunday evening, Mrs Merkel appeared to shift her position on the issue after Social Democrat (SPD) leader Mr Schulz promised to end the accession negotiations.

But she and her centre-right CDU are not alone in having cosy ties with the auto sector, the backbone of the German economy.

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Merkel's tough stance came after Turkey arrested two more German citizens this past week "for political reasons", infuriating Berlin.

Relations between Turkey and Germany have been damaged particularly since the July 15 failed coup attempt by FETÖ a year ago, which attempted to topple the democratically elected government in Turkey. The escalating tensions have split the Turkish community in Europe's top economy, the largest Turkish diaspora overseas, which is a legacy of Germany's "guest worker" programme of the 1960s and 70s.

While Merkel said she would ask the bloc to halt membership talks, Schulz said he would stop Turkey's bid if he was elected chancellor. But with nearly half the voters still undecided three weeks before the elections, the straight-talking Schulz had been pinning his hopes on the prime-time TV showdown, hoping to sway millions to his cause and halt a devastating popularity slide.

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The debate was considered the last chance for Schulz to turn the race around after falling far behind in polls. This is evidenced by the results of the survey, which led the polling Institute Infratest dimap on order of the TV channel ARD.

Focusing on a recent statement from the chancellor when she said she would do the same again as she did two years ago, Mr Schulz said with surprising force: "Merkel said she would do the same as in 2015; I would not agree at all". "There are moments in the life of a chancellor where you have to make a decision", she said. Allowing hundreds of thousands of people into the country was the "absolutely correct" thing to do at the time, the chancellor said.

The SDP leader tried to outmanoeuvre Mrs Merkel by saying he would end Turkey's European Union talks if he won. "Whether we can win over all the countries for this I don't know".

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