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Hollande visits French aircraft carrier off Syria

Fighter jet on aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle
Fighter jet on aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle RFI/Sami Boukhelifa

President François Hollande on Friday visited the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle located in the Mediterranean on the outskirts of Syria. The visit comes 48 hours ahead of challenging regional elections.

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Hollande met “military personnel taking part in operations to intensify the fight against the Islamic State organisation in Syria and Iraq,” a statement from the Elysée said on Friday.

A visit that comes just 48 hours before challenging regional elections on Sunday, and that some see as him playing politics. The French far-right has reached almost 30 per cent of voting intentions in the first round of elections while the Socialist party has dropped to 23 per cent voting intentions.

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“The president is the leader of the armed forces. We are engaged in fighting IS and it’s normal the President meets his troops taking part in operations,” the Elysée said, stressing that Hollande has also visited French troops in Mali and in Central African Republic.

Hollande has seen a surge in his popularity ratings since he declared “war” on IS after the Paris attacks on 13 November when 130 people were killed. However this does not mean approval for his current politics nor a promise of victory for Sunday elections.

The French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle is currently being used to conduct air strikes on IS targets and the French fighting force has tripled since its arrival off Syria on 23 November.

On Friday, German lawmakers approved a military action in Syria against the Islamic State organisation, answering France’s call for help after the Paris attacks. The German parliament agreed for the deployment of six Tornado aircrafts, a frigate to protect the Charles de Gaulle and 1,200 troops. Britain joined the coalition on Thursday.

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