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Merkel, rival Schulz spar over Turkey in TV election debate

04 September 2017

Merkel made the remarks on Sunday at the TV duel with Martin Schulz, chancellor candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), her major rival in the upcoming federal elections, as refugee and immigration issues are some of the prime focuses in the debate, Xinhua news agency reported.

"It is clear that Turkey should not become a member of the European Union", she said after Schulz made his pledge to stop Ankara's accession bid.

The German Chancellor won 55 percent of the vote, while its main competitor, the candidate of the social Democrats, and 35 percent.

Merkel repeated her standard position that she was in favour of stopping further discussions with Ankara about its participation in a EU customs union.

She said: "I do not intend to break off diplomatic relations with Turkey".

Mrs Merkel was some 14 points ahead of Mr Schulz in opinion polls before the debate.

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In a debate that covered a range of topics - but was notable for what was left out, including Brexit, Russia and the future of the euro - Schulz repeatedly argued that he would have done what Merkel did, just more successfully.

He accused her of having failed to consult EU partners properly before taking action in a crisis which has led to hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers coming into Germany and strained relations with European partners.

Ms Merkel responded by saying that she had implemented the first article of the German constitution which upholds human rights.

But the green light for membership talks was given months before Merkel became chancellor in 2005 and she has always said that she will respect that decision, referring to the negotiations as "open ended". It is a gap most commentators believe is too large to make up, and there was little sign Mr Schulz did enough last night to change the course of the election.

Merkel, rival Schulz spar over Turkey in TV election debate