Merkel's refugee policy under fire in key election debate

Merkel's Social Democrat rival bullish ahead of German TV clash

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her center-left rival, Martin Schulz, locked horns over how to deal with Turkey in their only televised debate Sunday, three weeks before the country's general election.

Merkel argued that the cease of the accession talks with Turkey can only be decided in the concert of the European Union states.

"I'll speak to my (EU) colleagues to see if we can reach a joint position on this so that we can end these accession talks", Merkel added.

Turkey has been in negotiations to join the European Union since 2005, but talks recently grinded to a halt and European Union leaders have stepped up their criticism of President Tayyip Erdogan.

"I do not intend to break off diplomatic relations with Turkey just because we're in an election campaign and want to show each other who is tougher", she said.

Merkel's comments came after Schulz appeared to surprise her by vowing to push for an end to the negotiations if he was elected chancellor in the September 24 federal election.

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

If the polls are correct, Mr Schulz appears to have failed to capitalise on the campaign's only television debate involving Ms Merkel or to revive his flagging chances of defeating the chancellor as she aims for a fourth term.

On 1st September, tensions grew again when Merkel said Germany should react decisively to Ankara's detention of two additional German citizens, as calls grew in Germany for Berlin to issue a formal travel warning for Turkey, a popular tourist destination for many Germans.

Social Democrat Martin Schulz, Merkel's main challenger, said she made a "serious mistake" when she opened Germany's boarders to around a million asylum seekers.

In talks with local leaders, the government is hoping to agree further measures to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions in the most affected cities and raise more resources to achieve medium and long-term results.

Ms Merkel responded by saying that she had implemented the first article of the German constitution which upholds human rights. She has previously said she would respect the talks. 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.

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