PARIS – French jets from the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle struck Islamic State targets in Iraq on Monday while Britain offered France the use of an air base on Cyprus to hit the militants behind the Paris attacks.
French President Francois Hollande met British Prime Minister David Cameron in Paris on Monday as part of efforts to rally support for the fight against Islamic State and Hollande is also due to visit Washington and Moscow this week.
Cameron offered air-to-air refueling services and said he was convinced Britain should carry out airstrikes alongside France and would be recommending that Britain’s Parliament vote through such measures.
France has intensified its bombings in Syria since the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris claimed by Islamic State that killed 130 people. The group is also being targeted from the air by a U.S.-led coalition and Russia.
French jets taking off from the country’s flagship in the eastern Mediterranean destroyed targets in Ramadi and Mosul in Iraq on Monday in support of Iraqi forces on the ground, the French armed forces said in a statement.
The arrival of the Charles de Gaulle in the area following the Paris attacks has tripled the French air force’s firepower by boosting the number of planes targeting Islamic State to 38.
“I firmly support the action that President Hollande has taken to strike ISIL (Islamic State) in Syria and it is my firm conviction that Britain should do so too,” Cameron said at a joint news conference after his meeting with Hollande.
“Later this week, I will set out in Parliament our comprehensive strategy for tackling ISIL,” Cameron said.
Cameron is eager to avoid a repeat of 2013 when he lost a vote on airstrikes against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces. Britain is already bombing Islamic State in Iraq.
Hollande said France planned to intensify its airstrikes on Islamic State in Syria, adding that it would focus on destroying targets that would cause as much damage as possible.
Besides the aircraft carrier, Britain’s Cyprus Akrotiri air base could offer another option for French jets, which had been using bases in Jordan and the United Arab Emirates until Monday.
On Tuesday, Hollande is due to visit Washington, where he hopes to overcome President Barack Obama’s reluctance to get sucked further into the Syria conflict.
Speaking before Hollande’s Washington trip, which will be followed by a visit to Russia later in the week, French officials made no secret of their desire to see the United States do more.
In between the two trips, Hollande is due to receive German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday night and Italy’s President Matteo Renzi on Thursday morning.
“We all need each other, so we have to find ways to coordinate,” French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Sunday. “We can do that without a combined military command structure; we just need to talk to each other.”
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