UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed former German diplomat Martin Kobler on Monday as his special envoy to the volatile Democratic Republic of Congo, succeeding former U.S. diplomat Roger Meece in July.
Kobler - currently U.N. special envoy in Iraq and previously deputy U.N. representative in Afghanistan - will head a 17,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo, which will shortly include a special intervention brigade of 3,000 troops tasked with neutralizing armed groups in the eastern border region.
Congo has been battling a year-long insurgency by M23 rebels. U.N. experts accused Rwanda of sending troops and weapons across the border to support the M23 last year. Rwanda denies the accusation.
Peace talks between the M23 and the Congolese government in Kampala, the capital of neighboring Uganda, have stalled. M23 is mainly made up of a previous Tutsi-dominated rebel group which integrated into the army following a 2009 peace deal.
But they deserted en masse last year and have stepped up training in their strongholds in preparation for the deployment of the U.N. intervention brigade.
The U.N. mission in Congo, known as MONUSCO, will also begin using surveillance drones in August to monitor the eastern border - a thickly forested area of rugged terrain with few roads, the United Nations has said.
Countries in the region signed a peace deal brokered by the United Nations in February to try to end two decades of conflict in eastern Congo.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)