The likely kingmakers in Germany's next coalition government have begun talks and claimed they have found some common ground.
The Greens and the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP) -- who came third and fourth in Sunday’s parliamentary election -- could play a key role in deciding the government's make-up with the first- and second-placed parties short of a majority.
In recent decades, the Greens have lent towards the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), who narrowly won the election.
FDP, meanwhile, is closer to Angela Merkel's centre-right CDU bloc, which finished second under Armin Laschet.
It was the CDU’s worst-ever result.
The leaders of the two smaller parties -- Annalena Baerbock of the Greens and Christian Lindner of the FDP -- posted the same Instagram selfie of themselves on Wednesday, with the caption: “In the search for a new government, we explore common ground and bridges over divides. And even find some. Exciting times.”
The election result left the question of who would succeed Chancellor Angela Merkel following her 16-year reign up in the air.
The two smaller parties decided to talk to each other first before entertaining advances from the SPD or CDU.
While they have some common ground, they have traditionally belonged to rival ideological camps and have different approaches to issues including the economy and fighting climate change.
The leaders didn’t say how or when they would proceed or give any other details.
The SPD has said they would like to start exploratory talks as early as this week.
The only other combination of parties that would have a majority in parliament is a repeat of the often bad-tempered outgoing “grand coalition” of the two big parties, which neither of them wants.
Merkel's current coalition came about after the 2017 election when Lindner pulled the plug on talks on a possible alliance with the chancellor's Union and the Greens.