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Leaders of the German Green Party Anton Hofreiter, Michael Kellner and Katrin Goering-Eckardt together with leaders of the Free Democratic Party (FDP) Christian Lindner and Wolfgang Kubicki are seen on the balcony of German Parliamentary Society offices prior to the exploratory talks with CDU/CSU about forming a new coalition government in Berlin, Germany, October 19, 2017. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt(reuters_tickers)
By Joseph Nasr
BERLIN (Reuters) - There is a long way to go in talks on forming a new German coalition led by Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives, a senior member of the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) said after meeting the environmentalist Greens on Thursday.
The three groups are holding exploratory talks this week about forming a new "Jamaica" coalition, so-called because their party colours - black, yellow and green - match those of the Jamaican flag.
Merkel, weakened by a surging far right in a Sept. 24 national election, is trying to make the three-way alliance work as her previous partners, the Social Democrats, want to rebuild in opposition after suffering their worst result since 1933.
The FDP and Greens' meeting on Thursday came after they each separately held talks with Merkel's conservatives on Wednesday. On Friday, all three groups meet for the first time.
"The meeting was marked by concentration and mutual respect," FDP General Secretary Nicola Beer said after Thursday's talks with the Greens.
"It was also clear that there is a long way to go on one or more issues but the atmosphere appeared to be focussed on finding out what the possibilities are," Beer added.
Merkel said on Tuesday her parliamentary party would have to compromise in the coalition negotiations.
Chancellor for 12 years and known as a skilled negotiator, she angered many voters over her open-door migrant policy and her conservatives saw their worst election result since 1949, bleeding support to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).
On Wednesday, the conservative premier of the eastern German state of Saxony resigned, saying a younger generation of leaders is needed. Some conservatives are starting to look towards a post-Merkel era.
"The people have a huge interest in Angela Merkel leading our country successfully for another four years," Daniel Guenther, conservative premier of the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, told Focus magazine.
"But they also want to see how things will proceed afterwards," he added.
Merkel has said she expects a government to be in place by Christmas, but others say January is more likely, pointing to a months-long policy standstill in Europe's biggest economy.
(Reporting by Madeline Chambers, Joseph Nasr and Paul Carrel; Editing by Alison Williams)