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German “Ostpolitik” pioneer Egon Bahr dies at 93

August 20, 2015

BERLIN (AP) — Egon Bahr, the German statesman who helped pioneer the “Ostpolitik” policy of improving relations with the communist East under West German Chancellor Willy Brandt, has died. He was 93.

Social Democratic party leader Sigmar Gabriel said Thursday that Bahr died overnight.

“Egon Bahr’s work for Germany and Europe achieved historic significance even during his lifetime,” said Gabriel, adding that Bahr’s greatest reward 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,’” said Gabriel.

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 better 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.

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