Egon Bahr dies at 93; statesman laid groundwork for reunified Germany

Egon Bahr, the German statesman and former journalist whose efforts to make his homeland whole paved the way for a reunified Germany, has died. He was 93.

Bahr helped pioneer the "Ostpolitik" policy of improving relations with the communist East under West German Chancellor Willy Brandt. A divided Germany, and the city of Berlin severed by a wall, had long stood as a symbol of the Cold War.

"Egon Bahr's work for Germany and Europe achieved historic significance even during his lifetime," said Social Democratic party leader Sigmar Gabriel, who announced Bahr's death on Thursday.

Bahr's greatest reward, Gabriel said, was seeing the Berlin Wall come down in November 1989.

Bahr "put his trust in the might of freedom and the power of dialogue; that was the basis for 'change through rapprochement,'" he said.

As a state secretary under Brandt, Bahr helped guide negotiations between divided East and West Germany, as well as with the Soviets, and played a key role in the negotiation of several treaties. He also served as minister for special affairs, then minister for economic cooperation under Brandt's successor, Helmut Schmidt.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier noted that throughout his life, Bahr was convinced that lasting peace in Europe wouldn't be possible without Russia. German news agency DPA reported that Bahr was in Moscow only last month, campaigning for improved relations between Germany and Russia.

Ties between the two countries have been strained over Russia's involvement in the Ukraine conflict.

Bahr is survived by his wife Adelheid, the Associated Press reported. Online biographies say he had three children.

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