German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she regrets the decision of the smaller Free Democratic Party to pull out of preliminary talks on forming a governing coalition but says she will see the country through a "difficult time".
The break down of the talks came as a surprise, especially as it was announced by the resurgent FDP, Merkel's preferred coalition partners who had dropped out of parliament four years ago and had ruled with her conservatives 2009-2013. "I will provide him with the information, after which we will understand how events will evolve further", she said in Berlin on Monday.
The second-largest party in parliament, the center-left Social Democrats (SDP), ruled out returning to a coalition government with Merkel's conservative bloc.
There is little appetite for a new election, especially as the main parties fear that the AfD would win more than the nearly 13 per cent of votes it secured to enter parliament for the first time as the third-biggest party.
"It is a day of deep reflection on how to go forward in Germany". "But I will do everything possible to ensure that this country will be well led through these hard weeks".
But signs that talks were going badly began emerging and Bild daily said on its website that "failure is in the air" as parties dug in their heels on key sticking points.
Among other things the Greens were pushing for Germany to end its use of coal and combustion engines by 2030, though they had signaled they were open to some compromise. The Free Democrats also expressed concern about what the moves would mean for jobs and Germany's economic competitiveness.
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"It's not easy - we saw that yesterday", Merkel said Friday.
Chairman of the German Free Democratic Party, Christian Lindner, said after the talks that his political force was completing the consultations, since the parties had failed to reach an agreement.
The DIHK Chambers of Industry and Commerce said a prolonged period of uncertainty would be bad for the economy.
In September, Germany voted to form a new government, and Merkel was elected for a fourth term as chancellor.
Though Merkel could also abandon the Free Democrats and the Greens and instead form a coalition with the center-left Social Democrats, her current partners in the outgoing government, the Social Democrats have been adamant about going into opposition following its disastrous result in the September 24 election.
"The voter has rejected the grand coalition", the Guardian quoted party leader Martin Schulz as saying at a party conference in Nuremberg earlier on Sunday.