Addis Ababa - Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz took over as AU chairman on Thursday, replacing Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn in the one-year post.

Aziz, in his opening speech, congratulated Hailemairan "for the remarkable work accomplished during his tenure”, adding that "he has contributed brilliantly to strengthen the role of Africa on both continental and international levels".

Aziz became the North African country's president in 2009 after leading two coups in four years.

The two-day talks, opened by Hailemarian on Thursday, are officially themed on agriculture and food security.

But the 54-member bloc is spending much of the time bogged down yet again trying to resolve conflict in member states.

"Let me congratulate my successor... and I pledge my full support as he continues to work to advance the objectives of our union," Hailemariam said in his farewell speech.

Sapa-AFP