After Angela Merkel’s hopes for a fourth term as German Chancellor were cast into chaos, her traditional rivals may now toss her a lifeline.
Spurned by the Free Democrats, who walked out of coalition talks Sunday and said they couldn’t trust her, the Social Democrats are signaling they may step into the breach.
SDP leader Martin Schulz has repeatedly ruled out recreating the so-called grand coalition that governed for the past four years after suffering a historic defeat in September.
But, as Birgit Jennen exclusively reports, he’s coming under pressure from President Frank-Walter Steinmeier to cut a deal.
Schulz will tell Steinmeier when they meet this afternoon that he’s ready to start talks to explore how he and Merkel might work together.
So far the SPD leader has only been prepared to support a minority government without a formal coalition.
While Merkel has expressed skepticism about governing without a majority, after a four-day standoff, Germany’s two biggest parties have started inching toward each other.
The rest of Europe is hoping they’ll meet.
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Global Headlines Putin’s Syria Play | Touting a “real chance” to end the war in Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin pushed a peace plan likely to cement the position of President Bashar al-Assad, the ally he rescued with a military campaign.
A whirlwind of Russian diplomacy culminated yesterday in a summit with the leaders of Iran and Turkey in Sochi, Russia, but details on how the often-fractious group hopes to make peace stick were scant.
Meanwhile the U.
, which is still calling for Assad to leave, looks largely sidelined.
Australia sounds alarm on China | Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s government warned that a U.
withdrawal in Asia would shift power to China, putting at risk the rules-based order that underpins the region’s prosperity.
Turnbull called for continued U.
engagement as President Donald Trump raises doubts about America’s commitment and the region becomes more economically dependent on China.
Beijing responded that Australia’s comments on the disputed South China Sea were “irresponsible.
”Targeting Venezuela’s economic engine | Nicolas Maduro’s administration has netted its biggest fish in a purge of state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela, having arrested more than 50 officials at the oil giant and its joint ventures since August for alleged graft.
The detention of the acting president of PDVSA’s U.
refining arm comes as Maduro tightens his grip on power and paints himself as battling the forces of Yankee imperialism as the heir of late President Hugo Chavez.
Berlusconi goes to court | Silvio Berlusconi is asking the European Court of Human Rights to quash a ban on his running for public office, imposed because of a tax-fraud conviction, as he seeks a fifth term as Italian prime minister in elections next year.
The 81-year-old former cruise ship crooner has seen his political fortunes rise, with his center-right coalition winning a Sicilian regional ballot this month.
The court though may not rule in time for the vote.
Iran sees emerging enemy alliance | Saudi Arabia’s shock-and-awe foreign policy is creating ripples in Iran, where officials see its enemies ganging up under the unpredictable leadership of the kingdom’s all-powerful crown prince, the U.
Barriers to an alliance that engages the Islamic Republic militarily remain high.
But as Ladane Nasseri and Marc Champion write, Tehran isn’t ruling anything out.
Did you “like” Russian propaganda? Facebook will show people which Russian propaganda pages or accounts they’ve followed and liked, responding to a request from Congress to address meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
A new tool -- online by year’s end -- will allow users to see a list of any accounts they followed that were created by a Russian firm posing as U.
Two men stranded for five days in a remote part of Australia were forced to the roof of their bogged vehicle to avoid rising tides and even a crocodile, police say.
Charlie Williams, 19, and Beau Bryce-Morris, 37, were on a fishing trip with a dog in Western Australia on Friday when their car became stuck.
The pair made video messages during their ordeal, as a document and a message to their loved ones.
Rescuers found the men on Tuesday.
"They were very fatigued and dehydrated and heat-struck.
Obviously quite emotional and happy to see us," said police Sgt Mark Balfour, the rescue co-ordinator.
He told the BBC the men had survived by rationing food and water, but they had run out of supplies when they were found on the Dampier Peninsula, about 100km (60 miles) north of the city of Broome.
Sgt Balfour said the men had encountered at least one crocodile, which left them fearful.
In the videos, published by local media outlets, Mr Bryce-Morris said: "We were surrounded by crocodiles last night - tried to attack my dog.
" He went on to say the pair were staying positive, and later named a few people to whom he was sending love.
"No one can find us.
Can hear planes every now and again.
You don`t know how disheartening it is when [they] fly off," he said.
"Hopefully someone will come and get us.
" Police began their search on Tuesday after relatives noticed the men had not returned.
They were found later that day.
Sgt Balfour said the area was "in the middle of nowhere" and renowned for large tides.
Bangladesh has signed a deal with Myanmar to return hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who fled a recent army crackdown.
No details have been released of the deal, which was signed by officials in the Myanmar capital, Nay Pyi Taw.
Bangladesh said it was a "first step".
Myanmar said it was ready to receive the Rohingya "as soon as possible".
Aid agencies have raised concerns about the forcible return of the Rohingya unless their safety can be guaranteed.
The Rohingya are a stateless minority who have long experienced persecution in Myanmar, also known as Burma.
More than 600,000 have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh since violence erupted in Rakhine state late in August.
On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Myanmar`s military action against the minority Rohingya population constituted ethnic cleansing.
Last week the Burmese army exonerated itself of blame regarding the Rohingya crisis.
It denied killing any Rohingya people, burning their villages, raping women and girls, and stealing possessions.
The assertions contradict evidence seen by BBC correspondents of a crisis the United Nations has also called ethnic cleansing.
Amnesty International dismissed the Burmese military`s denials as an attempted "whitewash".
How soon any repatriation process from Bangladesh might begin, or Myanmar`s conditions of return, remain unclear.
Both countries are under pressure on the issue, for different reasons.
Bangladesh wants to show its population that the Rohingya will not be permanent residents - it was already hosting about 400,000 before the latest influx.
The Burmese authorities - and particularly de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi - are responding to international calls to do more to resolve the crisis.
Pope Francis is due to arrive in Myanmar on 26 November.
His visit will include meetings with army chief Gen Min Aung Hlaing and Aung San Suu Kyi, the Vatican has said.
The pontiff will later travel to the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, where he will meet Rohingya refugees.
Chinese equities saw heavy losses Thursday following new liquidity rules in the country and as global investors opted for safe-haven assets like sovereign bonds.
The Shenzhen composite closed down 2.
9 percent and the tech-heavy Chinext composite lost 2.
The Shanghai composite dropped 2.
2 percent with the technology, consumer non-cyclical and health-care sectors recording the steepest losses on the day.
Meanwhile, the blue-chip CSI 300 index was down by 2.
9 percent by the end of the day, its biggest one-day fall in percentage terms since June 13, 2016, according to Reuters.
Hong Kong`s Hang Seng Index slipped by around 1 percent, a day after closing above the 30,000 mark for the first time in a decade.
Ken Peng, Asia-Pacific strategist at Citi private bank, told CNBC Thursday that over the weekend he had heard views about particular Chinese stocks having moved too fast.
He also said that Thursday`s downward move was impacted by "relative tight liquidity conditions in financial markets overall, because of a more stringent liquidity policy by the central bank.
" Chinese firms have been under pressure since the government began tightening rules on lending.
In particular, last week, banking regulators prepared a new set of rules to oversee the relationship between commercial lenders and their shareholders.
Authorities have also introduced other measures, such as restrictions in loans to the shadow banking sector, and there is a general view that China is stepping up the deleveraging of its domestic economy.
Meanwhile, there were reports that the sharp fall was also due to firmer bond prices with the dollar also dropping overnight after the minutes from the Federal Reserve`s latest policy meeting.
Thursday was also a weak day for stock trading across the world, with U.
indexes and the Japanese Nikkei all closed for the session.
Argentina`s navy is investigating reports of a loud noise detected a few hours after a submarine went missing.
The ARA San Juan disappeared last Wednesday with 44 people on board.
A spokesman called the noise a "hydro-acoustic anomaly" and would not confirm whether there had been an explosion.
Captain Enrique Balbi said the situation was getting critical and "concern is growing more and more" amid fears oxygen on board is close to running out.
One crew member`s sister said: "I feel like I`m waiting for a corpse.
" Elena Alfaro, who was waiting alongside other family members at the Mar del Plata naval base, told TN news network: "I feel like I`m at a wake.
I also feel time passing and time is crucial.
" More than a dozen countries including Russia and the US have sent resources to take part in the search for the submarine.
Mr Balbi told journalists: "Today is the seventh day, which was critical for oxygen capacity.
" The loud noise happened four or five hours after the submarine`s last radio contact, about 30 nautical miles (60 kilometres) north of its last-known position.
"It`s a noise," Mr Balbi said.
"We don`t want to speculate.
" Brazil, Chile, Colombia, France, Germany, Peru, South Africa, Uruguay and the UK are among the countries that have sent either ships or planes to help with the search.
The US navy has deployed two underwater vehicles which use sonar to create images of the sea floor.
A Nasa research aircraft has also flown over the search area but failed to spot anything.
What happened to the sub? The ARA San Juan was returning from a routine mission to Ushuaia, near the southern-most tip of South America, when it reported an "electrical breakdown".
According to naval commander Gabriel Galeazzi, the submarine surfaced and reported the breakdown, which Capt Galeazzi described as a "short circuit" in the sub`s batteries.
The sub was ordered to cut its mission short and return to the naval base in Mar del Plata immediately.
According to Mr Balbi, the captain of the ARA San Juan contacted the naval base once more after reporting the problem.
In the message, he reportedly said that the problem had been adequately fixed and that the sub would submerge and proceed towards Mar del Plata naval base.
The last contact was made at 07:30 local time (10:30 GMT) on Wednesday 15 November.
It is not known what happened to the sub after that contact.
Read: What happens when a submarine vanishes How was the alarm raised? Argentine navy protocol stipulates that in peace time, submarines make contact twice a day with the base.
When the submarine failed to call in, the Argentine navy began its search for the vessel.
Navy commander Carlos Zavalla at that point spoke only of a "failure to communicate" and urged relatives of the crew to remain calm.
There was no mention by navy officials of the vessel having any problems at the time and rumours of a fire on board were dismissed by Mr Balbi.
When did news of the breakdown emerge? On Sunday, relatives of some of the crew said that they had been told in messages sent before contact with the submarine was lost, that there was a problem with the sub`s batteries.
On Monday, Capt Galeazzi confirmed the sub`s captain had reported the issue on Wednesday.
Capt Galeazzi said that mechanical problems were not uncommon and rarely posed a risk.
"A warship has a lot of backup systems, to allow it to move from one to another when there is a breakdown," he said.
He also said that the sub had not sent a distress signal to the navy base.
Who is on board? There are 44 crew on board the submarine, which is under the command of Pedro Martín Fernández.
Forty-three of the crew are men but there is also one woman, Eliana María Krawczyk.
The 35-year-old is the first female officer in Argentina to serve on a submarine.
Nicknamed "the queen of the sea" by her father she comes from Oberá, a city in northern Argentina.
Despite having been born and raised far inland, her relatives say that "she was born to be a submariner", citing her "will of steel" and a passion for her job.
The rest of the crew is made up of submariners of varying ages and experience.
The sub`s engineer, Hernán Rodríguez, has been on the ARA San Juan for 11 years, local media reported.
How the missing submarine could be located.
German Social Democrat leader Martin Schulz is ready to start talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel and is prepared to offer her limited support for a fourth term, according to two people familiar with his plan.
Schulz intends to tell President Frank-Walter Steinmeier of his shift when they meet Thursday, the people said, asking not to be named discussing private conversations.
Schulz could back Merkel in a minority government, but he won’t offer another grand coalition, one of the people said.
Steinmeier, a Social Democrat who twice served as Merkel’s foreign minister and challenged her for the chancellorship in 2009, is seeking to secure a stable government for Europe’s largest economy following the collapse Sunday of negotiations between Merkel’s party and three other groups.
Schulz has consistently ruled out repeating the “grand coalition” that governed Germany for eight of the chancellor’s 12 years in office after leading his party to its worst result in more than half a century in September.
The president has urged parties to put responsibility to the nation ahead of their own interests, ratcheting up pressure on the SPD.
The party is split between those on the left who see the two coalitions with Merkel as the main reason for the slump in its support and those who spy a chance to push through some of their key policies.
‘Good Solution’ Schulz told a German newswire he’s sure a “good solution” can be found.
“The SPD is completely aware of its responsibilities in the current difficult situation,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur quoted him as saying on Wednesday.
Volker Kauder, the head of the CDU/CSU party caucus, told the Suedwest Presse newspaper there were signs of “movement” at the SPD.
“That creates a certain hope,” Kauder told the paper in an interview published Thursday.
“The SPD now needs to discuss this internally, and their leader of course with the president.
We are ready for any talks.
” However, Kauder appeared to pour cold water on the idea of a minority government.
Merkel, ruling in a caretaker capacity since she emerged weakened from the election, has signaled she would rather face a new vote than govern without a majority.
“We have no tradition of minority government in Germany,” Kauder said.
“If there is no other choice, this option will have to be used but making policy and day-to-day parliamentary business would be endlessly complicated.
” Many in the SPD would prefer to stay out of government to prevent the far-right Alternative for Germany, which entered parliament for the first time with 12.
6 percent of the vote, from becoming the biggest opposition force.
The euro remained near the day high of 1.
1839 against the dollar, up 0.
1 percent, while the German DAX index of leading stocks was down 0.
Pedestrians pass a wall mural depicting Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran`s supreme leader, left, and Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic republic of Iran, on a street in Tehran, Iran.
The shock and awe unleashed by Saudi Arabia’s crown prince has prompted concern in Iran, where speculation is mounting that the U.
and Israel may unite with the kingdom to take the fight to its bitter regional rival.
Like many analysts of the region, policy makers and commentators in Tehran say any common front is unlikely to amount to much.
There have been few signs lately that either Riyadh or Washington has the capacity to formulate or implement the kind of strategic, coordinated polices that would be required to roll back Iranian influence in Syria and Iraq -- where it aided governments in crushing Islamic State -- Lebanon or even Yemen.
Still, with U.
President Donald Trump in the White House and a more aggressive Saudi foreign policy championed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Iranian politicians and analysts say they’re not ruling anything out.
“It seems that plans are being drawn trilaterally and they intend to execute them,” said Kazem Jalali, a senior member of the Iranian parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee, and a conservative.
The three nations are developing “a type of shared outlook.
” As if on cue, the London-based Saudi website Elaph.
com last week published an interview with Chief of the General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces Gadi Eisenkot, a first for any Saudi-owned publication, in which he endorsed just such an alliance.
‘Iranian Danger’ Saudi Arabia and Israel have a shared view of the need to prevent Iran from securing a “Shiite crescent” across the region, Eisenkot told the Arabic-language publication.
“With President Trump there is an opportunity to build a new international coalition in the region.
We need to carry out a large and inclusive strategic plan to stop the Iranian danger.
” Cooperation, Eisenkot said, could include Israel sharing intelligence with Saudi Arabia.
He ruled out any immediate attack on the Hezbollah group in Lebanon, a leading Israeli opponent that’s allied to Iran.
Israel Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz told Army Radio that contact between the Jewish state and “the moderate Arab world including Saudi Arabia is helping curb Iran.
” Saudi Arabia doesn’t have any official ties with Israel and has repeatedly condemned the Jewish state’s occupation of Palestinian territories.
Read More: How Do Israel’s Tech Firms Do Business in Saudi Arabia? Very Quietly “It appears there is a new scenario being drawn for Iran,” said Hossein Mousavian, a former spokesman for Iran’s team of nuclear negotiators and a Middle East security analyst at Princeton University.
The emerging alliance “needs to be taken seriously and it will have consequences,” he said.
“We need to think of ways to improve relations” with the Saudis.
Prince Mohammed, the 32-year-old heir to the Saudi throne, has again put the world on notice that he’s willing to take radical steps at home and abroad.
‘Joint Attack’ Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned during a visit to meet his backers in the Saudi capital this month, in an apparent attempt by the kingdom to turn Lebanese voters and the international community against Hezbollah.
He suspended the decision Wednesday after arriving back in Beirut.
Then, after Tehran-backed Houthi rebels that the Saudi military is fighting in Yemen launched a missile at Riyadh’s airport, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir declared it an Iranian “act of war.
” “Saudi is trying to cooperate with Israel and the U.
to have an intense propaganda campaign,” Arab affairs commentator Hassan Hanizadeh told Iran’s conservative Quds newspaper.
“The aim is to prepare public opinion for a joint attack against Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
” In a sign of Iran’s desire to avoid an escalation, the influential hardline daily Kayhan was briefly shut down after it applauded the Houthi missile launch and suggested Saudi Arabia’s Gulf ally, the United Arab Emirates, could also be a target.
Saudi Purge Sandwiched between the missile attack and Hariri’s resignation, Saudi authorities on Nov.
5 purged some of the kingdom’s rich and powerful in what was billed as an anti-corruption campaign.
Toby Dodge, consulting senior fellow for the Middle East at London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies, described the arrests as “revolutionary.
” He compared them to the nation-changing assault on dissent within Iraq’s ruling party in 1979 by a young President Saddam Hussein.
A year later, Saddam invaded Iran, launching what would prove to be an eight-year war.
The concentration of power in one youthful, ambitious and unpredictable pair of hands is worrying now as it was then, said Dodge.
The risk is less of any master strategy emerging, he said, than of destabilizing actions pursued out of frustration at difficult economic and foreign policy challenges the prince faces.
Dodge expects the generals running Washington’s security agencies to prevent dramatic U.
moves, while obstacles to even a well-crafted and sustained policy would be enormous.
Kushner Links Prince Mohammed has developed close ties with Jared Kushner, Trump’s 36-year-old son-in-law, whose shuttling between Riyadh and Tel Aviv has fueled speculation that a new alliance to take on Iran is being formed behind the scenes.
What the prince may have in mind for such a coalition is unclear.
Yet there’s a wide field in which the trio might want to use their overwhelming conventional weapons superiority to push back: Israel against Hezbollah in Lebanon, the U.
against Iranian proxies and special forces in Iraq and Syria, Saudi Arabia in all of the above plus Yemen, said Daniel Byman, a Middle East expert and professor of security studies at Georgetown University.
Foad Izadi, a conservative foreign policy analyst at the University of Tehran’s Faculty of World Studies, rattled off reasons why recent Saudi actions are likely posturing.
Any attack on Iran would invite retribution against Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure, much of which is within reach of Iranian missiles in the kingdom’s east, he said.
“Iran would turn it into dust.
” Saudi rulers understand they couldn’t survive such a blow, Izadi said.
High Price Similarly, Israel might want to attack Hezbollah, but it knows that thousands of missiles would rain down on Israeli towns and cities, inflicting a high price for action.
  Yet, said Izadi, these are abnormal times.
“We have a prince in Saudi who is doing abnormal things, detaining the prime minister of a country, arresting his own cousin and relatives and ultimately doing things that make the Americans themselves worried,” he said.
“The usual analysis may not apply.