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Merkel strikes deal with social democrats, opening way to new German government

From Reuters - January 12, 2018

BERLIN (Reuters) - Chancellor Angela Merkel struck a deal with Social Democrat (SPD) rivals on Friday to open government coalition talks, easing months of uncertainty that has undermined Germanys global role and raised questions about her political future.

But the deal to revive a grand coalition that has governed since 2013 must be approved by SPD party members at a congress planned for January 21. Some fear further association with Merkels chancellorship could erode the influence of the SPD which suffered the worst result in Septembers election since the modern Federal Republic was founded in 1949.

We have felt since the elections that the world will not wait for us, and in particular regarding Europe we are convincedwe need a new call for Europe, Merkel, who has played a central role in tackling crises over the euro and refugees, told journalists after talks that had run through the night.

A 28-page blueprint pledged close co-operation with France to strengthen the euro zone. It also contained a promise, apparently targeting Saudi Arabia, a major buyer of German arms, not to export arms to countries involved in the war in Yemen.

Weakened by an election setback in September, Merkel turned to the left-leaning SPD to renew their grand coalition after the collapse in November of talks on a three-way coalition with the Greens and Free Democrats (FDP).

DIFFICULT TASKS TO COME

Germany is unfamiliar with the long negotiations that mark coalition building in many neighboring countries. The dominance of the SPD and the conservatives long ensured smooth government transition. But elections last September saw the rise of the right-wing Alternative for Germany which upset the arithmetic.

Merkel was eager to avoid any repeat elections or attempt at a minority government.

There will be difficult tasks to come, Merkel said. The coalition negotiations probably wont be easier than the exploratory talks.

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