The French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle will depart on a mission in the eastern Mediterranean and Indian Ocean in the first half of 2021, as part of "Operation Chammal" in Iraq and Syria.
"In the first half of 2021, the naval aviation group will be deployed in the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean. This commitment demonstrates, if necessary, our determination to fight terrorism permanently and unconditionally", Florence Parly, the French Minister of the Armed Forces, said on Tuesday.
Two years ago, at the half-way point in its life, the Charles de Gaulle underwent a complete renovation and overhaul, which cost the French State 1.3 billion euros. Its latest deployments have been in the eastern Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean, and it is expected to continue to fulfil its mission for another 20 years.
The aircraft carrier was deployed to the eastern Mediterranean to take part in "Operation Chammal", the French part of the international coalition fighting against Daesh in the Middle East.
France has been acting against Daesh in Iraq since September 2014, a mission that mobilised over 700 military and a dozen fighter planes (six Rafale and six Mirage), in addition to an Atlantique 2 maritime patrol plane.
"France considers that Daesh is still present. We can even speak of a form of resurgence of Daesh in Syria and Iraq," said Parly on France Inter and FranceInfoTV's 'Political Issues' programme, in collaboration with Le Monde.
This will be the carrier's first mission since more than 1,000 cases of COVID-19 were detected on board last spring. The ship was then in its return phase to the Mediterranean after a mission that began on 21 January. Its return, originally scheduled for 23 April, had been brought forward accordingly.
This Charles de Gaulle mission to the eastern Mediterranean also took place against a backdrop of tension with Turkey, particularly owing to disagreements over Syria and Libya and the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh, but also precisely in the Mediterranean around the disputed maritime areas.
Similarly, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, this week pointed out that he was open to improving relations with Paris after months of personal enmity with the French president, Emmanuel Macron.
These tensions were aggravated in October when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan questioned the "mental health" of French President Emmanuel Macron, accusing him of conducting a "hate campaign" against Islam for defending the right to caricature the Prophet Mohammed and for his speech against Islamist "separatism" in France.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavusoglu said last week that his country was ready to "normalise" its relations with France, referring to a "road map" drawn up with Paris.
"We had a constructive telephone discussion with my counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian, and agreed to work on a roadmap to normalise our relations," Minister Cavusoglu said.
This follows a period of continuous confrontation with several member states which led to a complete breakdown within the EU and the establishment by Brussels of a list of sanctions against Turkey. Now, it seems that Turkey wants to come back to the fold of the EU.