U.S. officials say Washington supports the request of United Nations peacekeepers to use surveillance drones in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Wednesday that these aerial vehicles would be unmanned and unarmed and their use could extend to other missions.
"This is the idea that the U.N. peacekeeping authorities are putting forward to have unarmed UAVs participate in peacekeeping missions. This would only happen with the consent of the country or the countries where the mission would operate and their use would not impact in any way on sovereignty. Again, they would be unarmed and they would only be carrying photographic equipment. The United States does support the U.N.'s proposal to use unarmed, unmanned aerial vehicles. We're also looking at other missions where this might be possible. We think that building on MONUSCO surveillance capacity will better enable it to protect civilians and will support the efforts of the DRC to restore stability in the eastern part of the country," Nuland said.
In a closed-door session Tuesday, United Nations peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous appealed to the U.N. Security Council for drones to help the more than 17,000 peacekeepers in the DRC.
Rebels briefly took control of the eastern city of Goma late last year after fighting with peacekeepers and the Congolese army.
Fellow council members Britain and France also agree with the use of drones. A spokesman for France's mission to the United Nations said on Twitter the U.N. force needs "modern assets, including drones, to be better informed and more reactive."
However, Rwanda -- which borders eastern Congo -- raised concerns about the deployment of drones, saying the move would make the U.N. mission a "belligerent" force.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is preparing a report recommending ways to improve the U.N. mission in Congo, known as MONUSCO, which is the world body's largest peacekeeping force.
The U.N. mission began operating in the DRC in 1999 monitoring a cease-fire deal that followed a rebellion in which rebels seized large areas of the country. It continues under a mandate to protect civilians and humanitarian workers, and to support the government's peace and stabilization efforts.