Merkel, Macron call for tougher European Union sanctions against North Korea

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks to Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan as they address the media after meeting in the Chancellery in Berlin in April 2016

Schulz, a former president of the European Union's legislative body, said he would end talks with Ankara about joining the bloc because of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's increasingly authoritarian policies.

"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. Merkel, ruling out a rise in the retirement age to 70 as some in her party have suggested, said she would not join forces with the Linke or the hard-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).

"No German citizen can travel safely to Turkey anymore", Schulz said, referring to the detention of 12 German citizens on political charges in the past months.

The escalating tensions have split the Turkish community in Europe's top economy, the largest diaspora overseas, which is a legacy of Germany's "guest worker" programme of the 1960s and 70s.

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.

Polls published after the televised debate put the chancellor ahead in the crucial clash.

Mrs Merkel was some 14 points ahead of Mr Schulz in opinion polls before the debate.

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Relations between Germany and Turkey have soured in recent years.

Schulz, who had previously complained that Merkel was lulling voters to sleep with her refusal to engage in combative debate, went on the offensive quickly.

Most of the respondents of the first survey released at the end of the debate, agreed that although Schulz performed better than expected, Merkel still won in terms of her credibility, sympathy, arguments and competence.

"That is what being chancellor is about", Merkel said.

Merkel called it a "very dramatic situation" that forced her to make a decision.

"I believe that we will manage this together", she told viewers, as she asked them for their support at the ballot boxes on Sept 24.

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