European Envoys Press for Political Solution to Congo Conflict | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 02.11.2008
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European Envoys Press for Political Solution to Congo Conflict

The British and French foreign ministers on Sunday pushed to bolster a ceasefire in the Democratic Republic of Congo amid reports the UN planned food aid planned for thousands of refugees in the country's east.

People walk past a convoy of Congolese army tanks

Hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes amid the violence

British Foreign Minister David Miliband and his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner held talks with DR Congo President Joseph Kabila in Kinshasa, before meeting later with Rwandan President Paul Kagame in his capital, Kigali, urging the two African leaders to honor their commitments under a previous peace deal.

Rwanda and Congo accuse each other of backing rival rebel groups. The two countries agreed in Nairobi last November that Congo's army would forcibly disarm Hutu militias.

Meanwhile regional presidents could meet in Nairobi in the coming week to discuss the crisis, Tanzania's foreign minister said at a joint news conference with the two European ministers.

EU envoys call for new political effort

An offensive by rebels loyal to General Laurent Nkunda reached the outskirts of the eastern Congo border city of Goma last week before Nkunda called a ceasefire.

Hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes, prompting aid agencies to warn that a catastrophic situation was unfolding.

Kouchner, left, and Miliband during a tour of the Kibati refugee camp near Goma

Kouchner, left, and Miliband during a tour of the Kibati refugee camp near Goma

Miliband said late Saturday it was up to the UN to ensure aid reached the tens of thousands of refugees forced to flee the fighting.

The BBC later reported UN food and medical aid was planned for the estimated 250,000 displaced by the recent fighting.

"The ceasefire last Wednesday needs to be bolstered. The crisis, even if averted in the short term, will return without a new, vigorous and united political effort," Miliband and Kouchner said in a joint statement.

Earlier Saturday, reports said that the Congolese and Rwandan presidents had agreed to attend a regional summit aimed at resolving the conflict.

Miliband says no plans to send British troops

The European Union's Aid Commissioner Louis Michel, who held talks with both leaders, told the BBC that Kabila and Kagame had agreed to meet at a summit involving the African Union and other African leaders.

Michel flew into the DR Congo on Thursday in an attempt to defuse the conflict between Tutsi rebels and government forces, which blew up into four days of full-scale fighting earlier this week.

A UN soldier patrols a street in Goma, Congo

UN troops are overstretched in Congo

The world's largest UN peacekeeping force is deployed in Congo. But they've been stretched to the limit by the fighting and the UN's top envoy in DR Congo, Alan Doss, has called for more troops to add to the 17,000 contingent already in the sprawling Central African nation.

"We are not at the moment looking at sending British troops to join the UN force," Miliband was quoted as telling reporters during a visit to a refugee camp in eastern Congo.

"Desperate situation"

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Friday urged Nkunda to stick to the ceasefire and said the situation was "very threatening."

The ceasefire continued to hold Saturday, but fears were growing for the fate of the tens of thousands who fled the rebel advance.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR said the situation was "desperate." According to UNCHR, rebel forces forcibly emptied refugee camps and burned them to the ground during their advance on Goma.

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