Former German chancellor Kohl dies at 87

Helmut Kohl

"Europe can never sink into war again", he said.

Italian EU affairs minister Sandro Gozi tweeted: "We have lost a great leader, above all a European with vision and courage".

For most of the 1990s, Kohl led the newly reunited nation, including becoming the heart of the European Union. He lobbied heavily for the euro, introduced in 1999, as a pillar of peace - and when it hit trouble more than a decade later, he insisted there was no alternative to Germany helping out debt-strapped countries like Greece.

The plan to make Germany whole again, a prospect that alarmed British and French leaders with lingering memories of Nazi Germany, nevertheless eventually earned the support of the US and the Soviet Union.

And no time demanded action of Kohl more than the tumultuous months around the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described Kohl as a "friend of Israel" who was "fully committed" to the security of the Jewish state.

"And my deepest sympathies and condolences are with his family and with the German people at this sad time".

Kohl persuaded Bush to accept a larger, reunified Germany, and convinced Gorbachev to withdraw troops from East Germany.

His legacy includes the euro currency that bound Europe more closely together than ever.

Kohl married Maike Richter, an economy ministry aide 35 years his junior, after his fall, and seven years after Hannelore died.

"I was lucky to communicate with Helmut Kohl in person".

In a message Friday on the Kremlin's website, Putin credited Kohl for "playing a key role in putting an end to the Cold War and the reunification of Germany". Russian president Vladimir Putin said he "admired his wisdom and ability to make far-reaching decisions even in the most hard situations". "In Russia, he will be remembered as a principled advocate of friendly relations between our countries", Putin said.

Putin was a KGB officer in communist East Germany when Kohl spearheaded the reunification of East Germany and West Germany.

For all his accomplishments as chancellor, Mr Kohl's life was tinged by controversy and personal tragedy after he left office in 1998 as Germany's longest-serving leader since Bismarck. Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel also called Kohl a "true European" while Luxembourg's Prime Minister Xavier Bettel lauded a "great statesman".

"This is his great legacy".

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that she received the news of predecessor Kohl's death en route to Rome on Friday and later changed her plans.

"The man I consider one of the greatest leaders in post-War Europe".

"We are in sorrow", his Christian Democratic Union (CDU) said on Twitter in announcing his death.

"Throughout our endeavours, Helmut was a rock - both steady and strong".

Kohl was born in Ludwigshafen am Rhein, an industrial port city in what is now the state of Rhineland-Palatinate.

The German reunification that Kohl oversaw is considered a major success story, but it remains a polarizing one that is still to be continued.

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