ADDIS ABABA - Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and their Great Lakes region neighbours have agreed a plan to "eradicate" armed groups in eastern Congo, the Congolese and Rwandan delegations said on Thursday.
The document was signed in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa by foreign ministers of nearly a dozen regional states, who met on the sidelines of an African Union summit.
They agreed to tackle a rebellion in Congo's North Kivu province, where the latest fighting began in April, displacing more than 100,000 civilians according to the U.N. and raising tension between Congo and Rwanda.
"I think it is positive. The most important thing is putting it into effect," Congolese Foreign Minister Raymond Tshibanda N'tungamulongo told Reuters.
Rwanda's Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo also welcomed the agreement, which foresees the region requesting an international force to eliminate both the Tutsi-led M23 rebel movement and the predominantly Hutu FDLR insurgents.
"It is a good agreement, it is not a solution, it is part of a solution and it is very good that the region gets involved," the Rwandan minister said.
Rwanda is accused of supporting the rebellion in the mineral-rich eastern part of Congo, straining its relations with Kinshasa and long-standing Western allies including Washington.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has told Rwandan President Paul Kagame he is concerned about reports that dissident Congolese troops are receiving support from Kigali officials.
The Rwandan government has consistently denied backing the rebel movement
Like the 2004-2009 rebellion, the current mutiny has its roots in ethnic and political wounds dating back to Rwanda's 1994 genocide. Later invasions of Congo by Rwandan forces, and Kigali's backing of Congolese rebels, fuelled two successive wars that killed several million people.