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German coalition talks on refugee crisis end without deal

Chancellor Angela Merkel and her coalition partners ended a meeting on Sunday without a breakthrough to resolve differences over how to handle the flood of refugees pouring into Germany.

Berlin expects between 800,000 and a million migrants to arrive in Germany this year, twice as many as in any previous year, and far more than in any other European Union country.

German media had billed Sunday’s meeting between Merkel, the leader of her conservatives’ Bavarian sister party, and Social Democrat (SPD) chief Sigmar Gabriel as a crisis summit between the ruling coalition partners.

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert described the talks as “constructive” but said the three party leaders would meet again on Thursday.

“There is a lot of common ground and some points that remain open and still to be settled,” Steffen said, adding that these included the idea of introducing so-called “transit zones” at border crossings to process asylum requests.

Horst Seehofer, leader of the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), wants tougher action to stem the flow of people.

He has issued a series of ultimatums to Merkel in recent weeks, including a threat to take the government to court over its policies on migrants, only to back down at the last minute.

Some CSU members want to tighten or even close Germany’s borders.

To defuse the coalition tensions, conservative officials had expected Seehofer to come away from Sunday’s meeting with a deal to introduce transit zones. Some SPD members have said they would not agree to such zones.

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