New York

17 November 2003

Statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Secretary-General welcomes the voluntary repatriation to Rwanda of 103 members of the Forces démocratiques pour la libération du Rwanda (FDLR) on 14 November, and congratulates Rwanda and the FDLR leaders for the strength of the political will demonstrated by them to negotiate this repatriation, and to end the long-standing conflict through a peaceful means.

This development represents a major breakthrough in the peace process. The Secretary-General is gratified that the ongoing efforts to normalize relations between the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Rwanda within the framework of the Declaration of Good Neighborly Relations and Cooperation have accelerated.

The Secretary-General calls on the DRC and Rwanda to further strengthen their cooperation in encouraging all remaining Rwandan armed groups in the DRC to return to Rwanda. He also calls on these armed groups to take advantage of the current opportunities available to them under the United Nations Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC)'s voluntary DDRRR programme.