International Monetary Fund chief laments death of 'visionary' Kohl

Former German chancellor Helmut Kohl, the architect of German reunification and a towering political figure of the last century, died aged 87 on Friday. He served as the sixth Chancellor from 1982 to 1998, being the longest serving German chancellor since Otto von Bismarck.

Baker said Kohl and former U.S. President George H.W. Bush "convinced the world to put East and West Germany back together as a member of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation nearly a half century after the division of Europe following World War II".

Bush described Kohl as "a true friend of freedom", saying the considered him "one of the greatest leaders in post-war Europe".

In 1990, East and West Germany and the four Second World War allies (Britain, France, USA and USSR) signed the two-plus-four agreement, sanctioning German reunification.

He was a proud European and was at the forefront of closer integration through what became the European Union.

A Roman Catholic, Kohl joined the CDU in his teens shortly after its postwar founding.

Kohl, along with former European Commission chief Jacques Delors and Jean Monnet, founding father of the European project, are the only three people the EU has made Honorary Citizens of Europe, an honor bestowed for extraordinary work to promote European cooperation.

He pursued reconciliation with Germany's eastern neighbors, though some critics said he moved too slowly after the fall of the Iron Curtain.

"He stood fast to the dream and aim of a united Germany even as others hesitated", she said in a televised statement from Rome.

President Donald Trump said Kohl was "a friend and ally to the United States as he led the Federal Republic of Germany through 16 pivotal years".

Kohl's earlier bridge-building with the US also paid off.

Ex-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev called Kohl an exceptional personality who had shown "a deep interest for Russia".

In the message to Chancellor Angela Merkel and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Putin says "I genuinely admired his wisdom, his ability to make balanced, far-reaching decisions even in the most hard situations". "That's how you see it!'" he wrote. Toward the end of World War II, he was called into the ranks of the Wehrmacht.

Another gesture of friendship and reconciliation the following year turned into a public relations fiasco.

"It doesn't matter what our relationship from a political point of view was". Yet high unemployment and Germans' yearning for change gradually sapped his authority, provoking a humiliating loss to the younger Schroeder's center-left Social Democrats in 1998.

  • Leroy Wright