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Austria's Kurz: German conservatives right to shun far-right

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz speaks on the first day of the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)b
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz speaks on the first day of the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)b (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

MUNICH – Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who led a coalition with a far-right party in his first term, on Friday endorsed his German conservative counterparts' refusal to cooperate with the far-right Alternative for Germany.

German politics has been thrown into turmoil by the election last week of a pro-business state governor with the support of both Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right Christian Democratic Union and Alternative for Germany, or AfD.

Regional CDU lawmakers defied advance appeals from the party's national leader, who this week announced that she would step down, and broke what is widely regarded as a taboo in post-war German politics around cooperating with extremist parties.

The new governor of eastern Thuringia state resigned a few days after his election. The CDU leadership has renewed its insistence that the party won't cooperate directly or indirectly with AfD.

Kurz, who governed with Austria's far-right Freedom Party as his junior coalition partner until a scandal surrounding that party's then-leader brought down the government last year, said he sees differences between the Freedom Party — a long-running fixture in Austrian politics — and the upstart AfD, which has moved steadily further right in recent years.

“I think it is sensible that the (CDU) party has decided clearly that there must be no cooperation with AfD,” Kurz said at the Munich Security Conference.

Kurz returned to power in January after a seven-month absence, this time at the head of a strikingly different coalition with the environmentalist Greens. He suggested that a similar combination might come together after the next German election, due next year.