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German "Ostpolitik" pioneer Egon Bahr dies at 93; guided talks between East, West Germany

  • FILE - In this September 1971 file photo Soviet party chairman Leonid Brezhnev points towards the shore to visiting West German Chancellor Willy Brandt as West German State Secretary Egon Bahr, right, looks on during a boat ride on the Black Sea, Russia off the coast of Crimea. German magazine Stern reports Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015 that Bahr has died. He was 93. (AP Photo/Fritz Reiss, file)

    FILE - In this September 1971 file photo Soviet party chairman Leonid Brezhnev points towards the shore to visiting West German Chancellor Willy Brandt as West German State Secretary Egon Bahr, right, looks on during a boat ride on the Black Sea, Russia off the coast of Crimea. German magazine Stern reports Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015 that Bahr has died. He was 93. (AP Photo/Fritz Reiss, file)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this July 21, 2015 file photo Social Democratic party member Egon Bahr gestures as he arrives to attend Russian and German political scientist meeting in Moscow, Russia. German magazine Stern reports Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015 that Bahr has died. He was 93. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, file)

    FILE - In this July 21, 2015 file photo Social Democratic party member Egon Bahr gestures as he arrives to attend Russian and German political scientist meeting in Moscow, Russia. German magazine Stern reports Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015 that Bahr has died. He was 93. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, file)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - The Oct. 16, 2007 file photo shows former German Social Democratic politician Egon Bahr in Berlin. German magazine Stern reports Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015 that Bahr has died. He was 93.  (AP Photo/Fritz Reiss)

    FILE - The Oct. 16, 2007 file photo shows former German Social Democratic politician Egon Bahr in Berlin. German magazine Stern reports Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015 that Bahr has died. He was 93. (AP Photo/Fritz Reiss)  (The Associated Press)

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.'"