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(AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac on Friday reassured Azeri leader Ilham Aliev of his government's willingness to help Azerbaijan and Armenia resolve their dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Aliev -- making his first official trip abroad since succeeding his father in October as president of the oil-rich Caucasus state -- met with Chirac at the Elysee presidential palace for talks and a working lunch.

On Nagorno-Karabakh, Chirac reaffirmed "France's availability to support Azerbaijan and Armenia in their efforts to jointly find a lasting solution to this conflict," his office said. The French leader also encouraged Aliev to push through democratic reforms in Azerbaijan, in accordance with commitments made by Baku when it joined the Council of Europe in January 2001.

Earlier, Aliev called on Paris to play a key role in resolving the Karabakh dispute. "Paris, as co chairman of the Minsk group, has a big role to play. President Jacques Chirac is very involved in this conflict," Aliev said at a conference organized by the French Institute for International Relations (IFRI).

The 41-year-old Azeri president hailed the Minsk group -- co-chaired by Paris, Moscow and Washington --for its efforts to put an end to the conflict, but noted: "Unfortunately there is no success."

He added: "The international community must put an end to a policy of double standards. Strong international mediation is needed. We are not in a rush -- we have the truth on our side, we have time on our side, we have international law on our side."

In talks last month in Geneva, Aliev and Armenian President Robert Kocharian agreed to maintain dialogue on the issue following what Aliev called an "exchange of opinions".
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