Merkel says will ask to end Turkey's European Union membership talks

"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.

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.

Martin Schulz and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have criticized on Sunday former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder for intending to enter the Board of Directors of Russian oil company Rosneft.

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.

Merkel, who has previously expressed doubts about Turkey ever joining the European Union, refused to commit to the same move, but sharply criticized Erdogan's rule, saying that "Turkey is departing from all democratic practices at breakneck speed".

In her pitch to voters, Merkel touted her 12 years of experience as the leader of Europe's biggest economy, citing Germany's low unemployment rate and pledging not to raise the pension age to 70. The ARD poll showed that 49 percent of those surveyed viewed Merkel as being more credible while 29 percent favored Schulz.

She has weathered storms over mass immigration and financial and political turmoil in the European Union, while the SPD, Germany's oldest party, has struggled to promote a strong rival. Merkel called it a "very dramatic situation" that forced her to make a decision.

"Integration is not something that happens on paper", Schulz said. "There are times in the life of a chancellor when she has to decide".

But he refused to rule out a coalition with the far-left Linke.

But the green light for membership talks was given months before Merkel became chancellor in 2005 and she has always said that she will respect that decision, referring to the negotiations as "open ended".

  • Jon Douglas