PARIS (Reuters) - France will deploy its aircraft carrier to support operations against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, President Francois Hollande said on Thursday, bolstering Paris’ firepower in the region amid international efforts to launch Syrian peace talks.
The carrier is usually accompanied by an attack submarine, several frigates, refueling ships, as well as fighter jets and surveillance aircraft.
“The aircraft carrier will enable us to be more efficient in coordination with our allies,” Hollande said at the inauguration of the new defense ministry headquarters in Paris
French warplanes struck their first targets in Syria at the end of September. It was the first country to join the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq and has also provided limited logistical support to Syrian rebels it considers moderate, including Kurds.
However, Hollande’s government has faced criticism at home for his Syria policy with some saying Paris has lacked flexibility and cohesion on the crisis.
A meeting on Thursday of France’s defense cabinet, which includes key ministers and officials from the intelligence services and military, aimed to outline how France will proceed over the next months in Syria and Iraq on both a political and military level.
“The president underlined the importance of supporting the Vienna process to move towards a political transition,” a statement from the presidency following the meeting said, referring to international talks held in recent weeks between key stakeholders.
“He said the core elements of any accord had to be the fight against Islamic State and the end of the bombing of civilians. (Syrian President Bashar al-Assad) cannot be in any way part of the future of Syria.”
The talks have so far yielded no breakthrough, although a new round is expected next week.
France has also been one of the main backers of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, one of the main parties in international discussions to end the four-year-old civil war.
Diplomatic sources said its president Khaled Khoja would meet French officials in Paris on Friday to discuss latest developments.
Reporting By John Irish; Editing by Andrew Callus