A visibly irritated Social Democratic chairman Martin Schulz took to the podium in Berlin on Friday to deny that his party was ready to officially begin talks with conservatives toward forming a new grand coalition government.
The chairman said the SPD's executive committee would discuss various options on Monday, and make a proposal which would be discussed at SPD's party conference from December 7 to 9 in Berlin.
German daily Bild reported earlier on Friday that SPD and the Union, comprised of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party Christian Social Union (CSU), has agreed to enter exploratory talks for a renewed coalition talks after the one since the 2013 federal elections.
Noting that his party and Merkel's bloc continue to govern as a caretaker government, he said "we have no time pressure" and would "not rule out any options". The SPD, which saw its participation in a Merkel-led coalition government from 2013-17 rewarded with its worst election result in German post-war history, had been strongly opposed to another "grand coalition". "As before, I remain sceptical that you can do that by carrying on "business as usual" in a grand coalition".
Schulz said he had telephoned the CDU leader to say that any such claims from her conservatives to the media would be viewed as "a breach of trust".
"It's not automatic that there will be a new grand coalition", Schulz told reporters in Berlin.
Malu Dreyer, an SPD member and premier of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, said she was sceptical the SPD could agree a "convincing, substantive proposal" with conservatives.
"We have a lot of options for building a government".
However, several leading Social Democrat politicians have supported a coalition or are backing a minority CDU/CSU government.
The SPD's top brass will then present their recommendation to party rank and file during their congress from Thursday.
"Giving Emmanuel Macron a positive answer will be a key element in every negotiation with the SPD", Mr Schulz was quoted as saying in an interview on Friday.