migrants, berlin germany.jpg
Photograph: EPA/KAY NIETFELD

The German government rejected Monday any suggestion of a rift between Berlin and Paris over refugee policy.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls ruled out on the weekend the introduction of a permanent quota system for distributing refugees across Europe, which appeared to place Paris at odds with a key part of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's migration policy.

But Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert insisted: "There is considerable agreement between France and Germany." Paris is Berlin's key ally.

Seibert went on to say that it was still too early to consider agreeing to additional quotas above the 160,000 that had already being decided for distribution in 2015.

The comments from Merkel's spokesman come as she prepares to fly to Brussels for a key European leaders summit on migration, which is set for Thursday and Friday this week.

The chancellor needs to win EU backing for her refugee plans to help head off a damaging row in her conservative political block over asylum policy and to fulfil her pledge of "a drastic reduction" in new arrivals this year.

In addition to her proposals for EU member states sharing the burden of the refugees arriving in Europe, Merkel wants the member states to agree to measures to strengthen the Brussels-based bloc's external borders and to combat illegal migration.

Speaking at a weekend conference in Munich, Valls said that France was not prepared to take more than the 30,000 refugees it had agreed to under last year's 160,000 refugee distribution plan.

Seibert welcomed Valls' remarks as a sign that France would stand by its commitments.

He said that any decision on additional quotas would be agreed to when signs had emerged that illegal migration had been significantly reduced.

"We want to implement things step by step," said Seibert, adding the focus of efforts should be on securing the EU's external borders.

Valls' weekend comments on refugees were not the first time that the French prime minister has spoken out about Europe's migration crisis.

Last month he warned about the threat posed to Europe by the large influx of refugees.

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