German parties meet on Wednesday on the hot issue of immigration with sides divided on whether to limit migrant numbers and with only one day left to conclude exploratory talks for forming a new coalition government, Reuters reports.
Chancellor Angela Merkel wants the exploratory talks to end on Thursday, when German media expect her to press all sides to strike a compromise before moving to formal negotiations.
Merkel, 63, is trying to forge an unlikely alliance of her conservatives, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and the ecologist Greens - a combination untested at national level - to allow her to govern for a fourth term as chancellor.
She needs the new team to work to head off fresh elections that mainstream politicians fear could see the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) make further gains after it surged into parliament for the first time after a September election.
On Wednesday, negotiators will try to narrow their differences on immigration - the issue that cost Merkel support in September’s national election after her 2015 decision to leave German borders open to more than 1 million migrants.
At stake is a plan by Merkel’s conservative bloc to cap the number of people Germany will accept per year on humanitarian grounds at 200,000 - a limit the environmentalist Greens reject.
“There must be a limit,” Volker Bouffier, conservative premier in the western state of Hesse, told ARD television. “We say 200,000 is a reasonable level, if one looks at recent years. But we have not yet achieved our objective.”
The parties are also at odds over the number of foreigners who qualify to join relatives granted asylum in Germany. Asked if negotiators could overcome their differences at Wednesday’s meeting, Bouffier replied: “I am confident. We will see.”