Christopher with Rabin and Mubarak - Reuters
Warren Christopher with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in Cairo on June 9, 1995. Photo by Reuters
Text size

Former United States Secretary of State Warren Christopher, who helped bring peace to Bosnia and negotiated the release of American hostages in Iran, died in California at age 85, news media reported.

Christopher "passed away peacefully, surrounded by family at his home in Los Angeles" of complications from kidney and bladder cancer, KABC-TV quoted his family as saying in a statement late on Friday.

As secretary of state, Christopher devoted much of his time to the Middle East. He made at least 18 trips to the region in pursuit of peace and a ceasefire in southern Lebanon between Israel and the pro-Iranian Islamic group Hezbollah.

In 1994, he witnessed the signing of a peace treaty between Jordan and Israel.

As President Jimmy Carter's deputy secretary of state, he negotiated the release of 52 Americans taken hostage at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979. The hostages were freed on Jan. 20, 1981, minutes after Ronald Reagan was sworn in to succeed Carter.

As the top U.S. statesman under President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 1997, Christopher was a behind-the-scenes negotiator. Often called the "stealth" secretary of state, he was known for his understated, self-effacing manner.

"Careful listening may be the secret weapon," the New York Times quoted him as saying in a 1981 speech when he was deputy secretary of state. "I observed some time ago that I was better at listening than at talking."

U.S. President Barack Obama said Christopher was "a resolute pursuer of peace… a skillful diplomat, a steadfast public servant, and a faithful American."

Paying her respects to her predecessor, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "In addition to being a great statesman, Warren was also a dear friend. I relied on his advice and experience over many years."

"The longer I spend in this job, the deeper my appreciation grows for the giants who came before," said Clinton, adding that "As well as anyone in his generation, [Christopher] understood the subtle interplay of national interests, fundamental values and personal dynamics that drive diplomacy."

Christopher was born on Oct. 27, 1925, in Scranton, North Dakota, and grew up in Los Angeles.