Europe

After election, 4 Dutch parties to begin coalition talks

FILE - In this March 13, 2017 file photo, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, right, and right-wing populist leader Geert Wilders, get their microphones installed prior to a national televised debate in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Wilders said on Wednesday, March 22, 2017, that political parties discussing the makeup of the next Dutch ruling coalition are shutting him out and sidelining 1.3 million people who voted for his party in last week’s parliamentary election. (Yves Herman/Pool via AP, File)

FILE - In this March 13, 2017 file photo, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, right, and right-wing populist leader Geert Wilders, get their microphones installed prior to a national televised debate in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Wilders said on Wednesday, March 22, 2017, that political parties discussing the makeup of the next Dutch ruling coalition are shutting him out and sidelining 1.3 million people who voted for his party in last week’s parliamentary election. (Yves Herman/Pool via AP, File)  (The Associated Press)

The conservative party of Prime Minister Mark Rutte and three other parties have agreed to begin talks about forming the next ruling coalition, but are warning that there are major differences to bridge before a deal can be struck.

The parties, Rutte's VVD, the Christian Democrats, the social democratic D66 and left-wing Green Left, met Thursday for exploratory talks with their leaders saying they are prepared to enter more formal discussions.

Rutte says he is "prepared to talk more but ... the political differences between these parties are significant."

Despite losing seats, the VVD topped elections last week for the 150-seat lower house of Parliament and is in line to lead the next coalition. The Christian Democrats, D66 and Green Left all made gains in the election.