"I took note of this decision today with respect but also with regret. I can only imagine how difficult it was for Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and I am grateful for her willingness to accompany the process of selecting a candidate for chancellor as the party leader," Merkel told reporters.
The chancellor added she would continue working together with Kramp-Karrenbauer, who has doubled as the federal defence minister since last July. She took over as CDU leader months after Merkel stood down in 2018.
CDU leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said she would not seek chancellorship in 2021 and would step down after helping organize the next party leadership contest by summer.