The leader of Germany's center-left Social Democrats (SPD) on Monday approved tentative talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) on forming a government if a party conference this week gives the go-ahead.
The move closer to a possible so-called "grand coalition" came amidst growing frustration that Germany has gone 71 days without a new government.
The SPD stressed, however, that this did not mean they wanted to rule with the CDU again – it was key for the party that the talks remain non-binding.
After four years of ruling together left the SPD with its worst results in history on September 24's general election, the Social Democrats had initially ruled out coalition talks and insisted on remaining in the opposition.
Left with few options to form a majority, Chancellor Merkel sought to form a three-pronged government with the Green party and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), but that failed after the FDP pulled out of talks.
Since then, the SPD has been under increasing pressure from the public to join a new grand coalition to avoid an unstable minority governmentor the drama of fresh elections. The party has also been facing similar pressure from European allies.
SPD leader Martin Schulz said on Monday that nothing would go forward if the "central tenets of social democracy" were respected by the CDU. This meant, Schulz said, compromise on refugee family reunification, environmental protection and workers' rights.
"We don't see anything as having been decided, and nothing is going to be automatic," Schulz added.
The SPD begins a three-day convention on Thursday, when the party will decide on Schulz's future as leader and whether it wants to be in government again.
es/tj (dpa, Reuters)