Merkel forced to defend her response to refugee crisis in TV debate

Hamburg

At least 12 German citizens are in Turkish detention on political charges, four with dual citizenship.

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

But, while viewers were impressed with his aggression, they judged Ms Merkel the overall victor of the encounter.

Speaking in a TV interview last week, Merkel labeled diesel and other combustion engines "bridge technologies" toward a cleaner future and added that diesel cars would be needed not just for years, but "for decades more".

The 90-minute session - the only such debate of the campaign - featured an entirely civil exchange of ideas between Germany's leader for the past dozen years and the man who wants her job, Martin Schulz.

Germany will also look at imposing "real restrictions on economic contact" with Turkey, as well as possibly issuing a tougher travel warning against travel to the country, she said.

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But after the moderators had moved on and asked the two candidates a question about US President Donald Trump, Merkel returned to the Turkey issue, suddenly throwing her weight behind an end to the membership talks.

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.

There was no immediate reaction from Turkey which is in the midst of a national religious holiday. "We need a European solution to the problem, and we lost this [with Merkel's approach]".

But the green light for membership talks was given months before Merkel became chancellor in 2005 and she has always said that she will respect that decision, referring to the negotiations as "open ended".

But both leaders agreed to promise action on one of the most sensitive political issues, delays in the deportation of failed asylum seekers.

Ms Merkel's Democratic Social Union and its Bavarian partner, the Christian Social Union lead the SPD by 38 per cent to 24 per cent, according to the latest opinion polls by the Emnid agency.

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