(photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
BEIRUT - German Chancellor Angela Merkel played down expectations of any major breakthrough at hastily-arranged talks among EU leaders on Sunday on the migration dispute dividing Europe.
Plans for the emergency meeting, before a full EU summit at the end of next week, were thrown into chaos on Thursday when Italy's new prime minister said a draft accord on migration had been withdrawn because of a clash with Merkel.
The German chancellor is under pressure to get EU leaders at the main June 28-29 summit to agree to share out migrants more evenly to placate her conservative allies, Bavaria's Christian Social Union (CSU). But Italy and others are very reluctant.
Initially expected to involve eight EU leaders, the Sunday talks will now bring together at least 17, according to the latest count by officials in Brussels.
"The meeting on Sunday is a consultation and working meeting at which there will be no concluding statement," Merkel told reporters in Beirut with Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Friday.
"It is an initial exchange with interested member states."
She said conditions in Syria were not yet right for refugees to return. Germany has taken in hundreds of thousands of Syrians and others since 2014, and migration policy is threatening her ruling coalition.
If no "satisfactory" deal is achieved at next week's summit, German Interior Minister and CSU chief Horst Seehofer has threatened to defy Merkel and turn people away at the German border who have applied for asylum in other EU states.
National border controls would undermine the EU's system of free travel and could cause a German government crisis.
"I am working for the coalition to do its tasks as set out in the coalition agreement," Merkel said. "We have lots more to do."