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Aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, a sign of French support

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The French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle’s arrival at Limassol port shows the blossoming defence relationship with Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean.

French Ambassador Salina Grenet-Catalano has praised the high standard of hospitality offered by Cypriot authorities to the crew of the navy’s flagship carrier.

She expressed gratitude to Nicosia for the continuous services to French navy warships and cooperation in defence and security matters.

Charles de Gaulle has sailed to Limassol in 2010, 2016 and 2020.

It leads the naval Task Force 473 and participates in the mission «Clemenceau 21», which is part of the operation «Inherent Resolve» to eliminate the terrorist group ISIS.

The captain of the aircraft carrier Captain Guillaume Pinget said Limassol is a familiar place for sailors; they are happy to rest after three months of leaving their base in Toulon and three weeks in the Persian Gulf.

Commander of the Task Force, Rear Admiral Marc Aussedat, said the mission was designed to highlight French determination and involvement in the fight against terrorism within the US-led operation «Inherent Resolve».

In a few weeks, the Admiral said that Charles De Gaulle’s naval strike force would meet for the first time with the British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth in the western Mediterranean for a joint exercise.

Nuclear-powered Charles de Gaulle, which will sail from Cyprus next week, hosts 1,200 sailors, 500 Marines, and about 100 naval officers while carrying 20 Rafale Marine fighter jets all-weather airborne early warning aircrafts 2C Hawkeye, and Caïman and Dauphin Pedro helicopters.

France’s regional military muscle-flexing has manifested itself in Task Force 473, a naval force of several warships including anti-submarine frigates and an air defence destroyer that’s centred around the De Gaulle.

The country already has a frigate deployed in the eastern Mediterranean permanently.

The primary mission of the task force’s five-month deployment in the East Mediterranean, the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean is to assist Operation Inherent Resolve, a U.S.-led mission of forces from several countries tasked with eradicating IS remnants following its three-year occupation of large swaths of Syrian and Iraqi territory.

Aussedat said the French task force has also helped in the fight against piracy and international trafficking in the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean, where it temporarily took command of Task Force 50, a US naval force led by the aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower, to help build trust and cooperation between the two navies.

According to Aussedat, the deployment also aimed to project French power and “show the French flag” in regions where the country has “strategic interests”, including the eastern Mediterranean.

French energy company Total, along with Italian partner Eni, is licensed to drill for oil and gas off Cyprus.

“The presence in these areas is made to prevent and to fight for stability, for the freedom of navigation, for our freedom of action and of course the interests of France but also of the partners which are linked with us,” Aussedat said.

Cyprus’ Defence Ministry said it would carry joint manoeuvres with the French task force as part of a bilateral defence cooperation agreement.