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FRANCE - IRAq - SYRIa

France to step up anti-IS air strikes, top soldier warns no short-term victory

The Charles-de-Gaulle aircraft carrier leaves Toulon on 18 November 2015
The Charles-de-Gaulle aircraft carrier leaves Toulon on 18 November 2015 AFP

France's Charles De Gaulle aircraft carrier was to be operational in the offensive against the Islamic State (IS) armed group Monday, tripling the airforce's capacity for air strikes against the organisation behind the 13 November Paris attacks. But the head of the French military has warned that a "short-term" victory is not possible.

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The Charles De Gaulle, which is based at the French Mediterranean port of Toulon, arrives off the Syrian coast today.

With 38 jet fighters on board, it will triple France's capacity for air strikes against IS, according to Chief of General Staff Pierre de Villiers.

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The offensive has already been stepped up in the wake of the Paris attacks, with about 60 bombs being dropped in the first three days of last week.

"Frankly, I think we did them serious damage," the general told the Journal du Dimanche newspaper.

But, he warned, "there will be no victory ... in the short term".

"Everyone knows that in the end the conflict will be resolved through diplomatic and political means."

Cooperation with the US military has greatly improved, he said, but "at this stage we don't have any coordination or identification of targets with the Russians, even if we have the same enemy".

De Villiers spoke to his Russian counterpart Valery Gerasimov by phone for an hour last Thursday.

French President François Hollande has launched major diplomatic effort to coordinate action against IS.

He was to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow next Thursday, after meeting US leader Barack Obama on Tuesday.

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On Monday he was to meet British Prime Minister David Cameron and on Wednesday German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

De Villiers said that Turkey should play a greater role in the anti-IS fight, hinting that the battle to unseat Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a top priority for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, could wait.

"We are at war against a despicable and unprecedentedly violent terrorism," he told the paper. "Everything else comes second."

 

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