Sir John Major pays tribute to 'towering' Helmut Kohl after death aged 87

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Former German chancellor Helmut Kohl, who has died aged 87, was a "towering figure" who had strength and courage in abundance, Sir John Major has said.

Leading British tributes to the leader who brought about the reunification of Germany, the former prime minister said Mr Kohl was an intensely human man with a mischievous sense of fun.

The former Christian Democratic Union leader was the longest-serving chancellor of the last century.

Sir John said: "Helmut Kohl was a towering figure in German and European history. He entrenched Germany in a wider Europe, in the hope of achieving a unity and peace that the continent had never known before. This required great political strength and courage - both of which qualities Helmut had in abundance.

"But behind his public image, Helmut was an intensely human man: sometimes reflective; sometimes emotional; but always with a mischievous sense of fun.

"Helmut had a huge personal presence, with a heart to match: he was a strong and true friend. I was immensely fond of him, and will miss him."

Prime Minister Theresa May said Mr Kohl was a "giant" of European history.

"It is with great sadness that I learned of the death of former chancellor Helmut Kohl," she said.

"As the first chancellor of a unified Germany since 1945 he was a giant of European history. On behalf of the people of the United Kingdom I pay tribute to the role he played in helping to end the Cold War and reunify Germany.

"We have lost the father of modern Germany and my deepest sympathies and condolences are with his family and with the German people at this sad time."

Labour former prime minister Tony Blair said: "He was a giant of European as well as German politics, a true statesman and someone who combined practical politics with genuine vision.

"Our time in office only coincided for a short time but I found him a source of wisdom and partnership. And he had a real affection for Britain. He will be remembered with gratitude by many all over Europe."