Addis Ababa - The African Union on Thursday expressed "fervent hope" that UN Security Council ambassadors will persuade Burundi to begin serious talks and agree to the deployment of peacekeepers to prevent further violence.
AU Commission chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said in a statement that there was an "urgent and imperative need for a strong unity of purpose" to solve the crisis, with Burundi refusing to admit a proposed AU force.
The 15-member council is expected late Thursday in Burundi, where the United Nations has warned that months of violence could escalate into ethnic killings and mass atrocities.
An AU deadline for Burundi to accept the force has long passed with no action yet taken to deploy the peacekeepers, named the African Prevention and Protection Mission in Burundi (MAPROBU).
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Dlamini-Zuma expressed "the fervent hope" that the UN ambassadors will "contribute toward achieving" the rapid deployment of MAPROBU and the "immediate resumption of the inter-Burundian dialogue", in reference to stalled talks between the government and opposition.
At a meeting planned for Friday, the council hopes to persuade President Pierre Nkurunziza to agree to the AU proposal of 5,000 peacekeepers, which his government has branded an "invasion force".
Discussion of the peacekeeper deployment is expected to be a key element of talks at the AU summit in Ethiopia on January 30-31.
Burundi descended into bloodshed in April when Nkurunziza announced his intention to run for a controversial third term, which he went on to win in July elections.
More than 400 people have died in the violence and at least 230,000 have fled to neighbouring countries.