Germany should cap the number of new immigrants to around 65,000 a year, the deputy leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives said, a position that could prove divisive in coalition talks with the Social Democrats (SPD).

Merkel is trying to forge a new governing coalition with the SPD after talks with two smaller parties collapsed last month. Exploratory talks are due to begin on Jan. 7, and Merkel hopes to reach a deal by mid-January.

Merkel has blamed Sept. 24 election losses on public concern at her 2015 decision to allow in over a million migrants, and now favours a tougher stance on deporting migrants accused of crimes.

Thomas Strobl, deputy leader of Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), told the Heilbronner Stimme newspaper there could be no repeat of that wave of migrants and Germany needed to return to more ‘normal’ numbers, below the limit of 200,000 that the CDU agreed with its Bavarian sister party in October.

‘I'm not thinking of the much-discussed 200,000 per year,’ Strobl said in an interview published on Saturday.

‘The target should be the number from the year 2012 when 65,000 refugees came.’

The SPD opposes a cap on migration and efforts by conservatives to extend a suspension of family reunifications for migrants granted ‘subsidiary protection’ rather than full asylum that is due to expire in March 2018.

Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, a top SPD member, on Friday told broadcaster ARD that his ministry would drop an appeal against a court ruling that allows the family of a 16-year-old Syrian migrant to join him in Germany.

Gabriel told the Funke newspaper group in a separate interview that Germany could not meet the needs of all those who wanted to move there, and urged steps to encourage other European Union members to take in more migrants.

He said it was also clear that Germany needed to deport migrants that entered illegally.

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