Schulz Says He Won't Enter German Coalition Government

Coalition talks of CDU  CSU and SPD in Berlin

Germany's Social Democrats (SPD) chairman Martin Schulz announced on Friday that he would not pursue ministerial post in the next German government, including the foreign minister.

"I hereby renounce joining the federal government and at the same time implore that this should be an end to debates about personalities" within the Social Democratic Party (SPD), Mr Schulz said in a statement.

On Wednesday, Schulz told colleagues he planned to resign as leader of the SPD after party members have voted on the coalition deal.

The coalition agreement between the Social Democrats and Merkel's CDU/CSU bloc is still subject to approval from the SPD's around 460,000 members.

Schulz's choice to step aside "deserves the highest respect and recognition", said Andrea Nahles, his likely successor as party chair. "That also means that my personal ambitions must come behind the interests of the party".

Those opposed to any deal with Mrs Merkel include a new group within the SPD calling itself NoGroKo (no grand coalition). His withdrawal was a response to an outcry in the Social Democrats' base, with many saying Schulz, who led the party to its worst election result since World War II previous year, had broken his promise never to enter a Merkel government.

Gabriel said Germans appear to think he has been successful "and it's clear I regret that the new Social Democrat leadership didn't care about this public appreciation of my work".

A deal to govern with Chancellor Merkel's conservatives still has to be endorsed by SPD members.

"The only thing left, really, is remorse over how disrespectful we've become with one another in our dealings and how little someone's word still counts", Gabriel said. Many of them are skeptical about extending the four-year "grand coalition" of Germany's biggest parties after a disastrous election result in September.

He was also facing anger over his treatment of Sigmar Gabriel, the current foreign minister and Germany's most popular politician, who had looked set to be forced out of government by Mr Schulz's decision to take the job. A party meeting in January narrowly approved talks with Merkel's Christian Democratic-led bloc, laying bare the divisions. However, three crushing state electoral defeats followed, damaging Schulz's campaign last summer irreparably.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and Germany's main center-left party are still haggling over a deal to form a new coalition government after negotiations that lasted through the night.

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