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 told the dpa news agency Thursday that Bahr died overnight.

As a state secretary under Brandt, Bahr helped guide negotiations between 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.

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