'Breakthrough' achieved on German 'grand coalition' after more than 24 hours of talks

Sources say that Angela Merkel's conservatives and the SPD have achieved a 'breakthrough' in talks on a grand coalition. They say a final agreement depends on both sides giving their approval to move forward.

Exploratory talks between German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) and the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) on a possible agreement to start formal coalition negotiations have reached a "breakthrough," sources say.

The agreement on a blueprint for formal negotiations could pave the way to ending months of political uncertainty in German following September elections.

After around 24 hours of talks, the six party and parliamentary leaders began presenting the 28-page blueprint to party members, party sources said.

Merkel had said Thursday the talks would be "tough" but that she hoped the parties would conclude the preliminary round by Friday.

 Read more: Germany's never-ending coalition talks break record

Deutschland Fortsetzung der Sondierungen von Union und SPD | Angela Merkel (CDU)

Merkel said Thursday she hoped the parties would reach an agreement by Friday

Media blackout

Thirty-nine negotiators (13 from each party) began exploratory talks on Sunday with the goal of hashing out policy agreements that would allow the parties to start detailed coalition negotiations.

So far, leaders have reportedly agreed to drop Germany's target of reducing carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2020.

But few details are known about how much progress the parties have made on other issues amid a secretive negotiating atmosphere.

Read more: Opinion: German coalition hopefuls drop climate goals

Government before Easter?

Many observers and members from all three parties hoped a breakthrough on other issues could be achieved to avoid a CDU/CSU minority government or fresh parliamentary elections.

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The final hurdle is set to be the SPD party conference on January 21 in Bonn, where party members are to vote on whether enough progress has been made to start formal coalition negotiations.

Formal talks are not expected to end in a final coalition government before Easter.

Read more: Germany's CSU returns to far-right political battleground

Latest attempt

The latest negotiations come more than three months after national elections saw large losses for the CDU, CSU, and SPD that together had been governing as a "grand coalition" since 2013.

The SPD initially ruled out renewing the coalition, leading the CDU and CSU to seek a coalition with the business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the Greens. But exploratory talks fell apart in November after FDP leader Christian Lindner walked out.

Read more: German coalition talks collapse: 'A terrible end is better than unending terror'


Angela Merkel, leader of the Christian Democrats

"It is at least a day of deep contemplation about how things proceed in Germany. But I want to say to you that I, as chancellor, will do everything to lead this country through these difficult weeks."


Christian Lindner, leader of the Free Democrats

"It is better not to govern than to govern incorrectly."


Cem Ozdemir, leader of the Greens

"An agreement would have been possible with the necessary goodwill. We were ready for this agreement right till the last seconds, and even to go a bit further, where you cannot actually go."


Thorsten Schäfer-Gümbel, deputy leader of the Social Democrats

"The SPD is not the spare wheel on Ms. Merkel's careening car."


Horst Seehofer, leader of the Christian Social Union, sister party to the Christian Democrats

"It is a pity that we did not succeed in achieving that which was within our reach."


Heiko Maas, Justice Minister and member of the Social Democrats

"This party-political egoism damages our democracy."


Angela Merkel, leader of the Christian Democrats.

"We believed we were on a path where an agreement could have been reached. I regret, with full respect for the FDP, that we could not come to a mutual agreement."


Volker Wissing, leader of the Free Democrats in Rhineland-Palatinate

"Merkel has failed. She wanted to pursue green-and-black politics and not engage with the concerns of the FDP. The collapse of talks was the logical consequence."


Julia Klöckner, Deputy Federal Chairperson of the Christian Democrats

"You can do what the FDP did, but don't have to. Well-prepared spontaneity. The decent thing would have been if all party chairpeople had announced the cancellation together."


Alexander Gauland, deputy leader of the Alternative for Germany

"I see that we're having an effect. Frau Merkel has failed, and it is time for her to go as chancellor."

amp/rc (dpa, Reuters)

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