Angela Merkel u-turns on Turkey EU membership bid in election TV debate

Turkey rift: German politicans demand economic pressure

Turkey rift: German politicans demand economic pressure

German Chancellor Angela Merkel emerged as the clear victor of the only television debate with her center-left challenger Martin Schulz three weeks before a federal election, a poll showed on Sunday.

"The fact is clear that Turkey should not become a member of the EU", Merkel said in the debate with her Social Democrat (SPD) challenger Martin Schulz.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said although "radical Islamists" are perpetrating acts of terror in Europe, she still believed that "Islam belongs to Germany".

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

Merkel said she did not want to break Germany's ties with Turkey or cease Turkey's opportunity to join the European Union, as at least 50 per cent Turkish people hope to join.

The televised debate brought to life an election that has until now seemed little more than a victory procession for Mrs Merkel.

There was no immediate reaction from Turkey which is in the midst of a national religious holiday.

Schulz, who had previously complained that Merkel was lulling voters to sleep with her refusal to engage in combative debate, went on the offensive quickly.

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. Merkel called it a "very dramatic situation" that forced her to make a decision. But two separate surveys conducted after the debate put Merkel ahead, with 55 percent saying in the ARD poll that she was more convincing, compared to just 35 percent for Schulz. They were also united on backing legal changes to permit class action suits for owners of diesel cars affected by the auto emissions scandal, and on cracking down on radical Islamic preachers.

Earlier in the year Merkel had faced major questions over whether she would be able to survive a two-pronged assault, with Schulz attacking from the left even as she confronted a vigorous challenge from her right flank in the form of the upstart Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

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