French president François Hollande said on Thursday he would deploy his nation’s only aircraft carrier to the Eastern Mediterranean to support the war against the self-declared Islamic State in the Levant.
“The aircraft carrier will enable us to be more efficient in coordination with our allies,” the French president said at the inauguration of a new Defense Ministry headquarters in Paris.
Moored in the Mediterranean port of Toulon, France’s Charles de Gaulle carries fighter as well as surveillance jets and is typically accompanied by an attack submarine and several frigates and refueling ships when it is deployed.
France began bombing Islamic State targets in Syria in September. It was the first NATO ally to join the United States in attacking the group in Iraq as well. The Islamic militants control territory in both countries.
Hollande’s announcement comes a little over a month after France decided to sell two helicopter carriers originally built for Russia to Egypt instead. The Arab nation is considered an ally in the fight against violent Islamism in the Middle East.
The Islamic State was accused on Thursday of bringing down a Russian commercial airliner over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula earlier this week, killing 224 passengers and crew. Egyptian and Russian authorities insisted that the evidence remained inconclusive. Several European countries nevertheless banned flights to and from the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh where the doomed flight originated.
Russia recently intervened on the side of Syria’s president Bashar Assad in his country’s four-year civil war.
France has long urged more forceful Western action against Assad as well who is blamed for radicalizing the opposition against him and escalating a conflict that has displaced one in two Syrians and is believed to have cost more than 250,000 lives.