PARIS: US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Saturday visited France’s Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier in the Gulf where it is being used to launch strikes on Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq, the French defence ministry said.
It was the first visit by a US Pentagon chief to the French flagship aircraft carrier, which is at the heart of a stepped-up air campaign against the jihadists in Syria and Iraq.
Carter, who visited Afghanistan on Friday and will fly to Moscow on Sunday for talks on Syria, was greeted on the deck by France’s junior minister for veterans, Jean-Marc Todeschini.
His French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian, was unable to be there but the two spoke by phone during the visit, the ministry said.
France began bombing jihadist targets in Syria in late September, with planes using bases in the region.
But the carrier was only deployed last month after President Francois Hollande declared “war” on IS following the November 13 jihadist attacks on Paris which killed 130 people.
Initially deployed to the eastern Mediterranean, the vessel which has 26 fighter jets moved to the Gulf earlier this month to relieve a US carrier, and it will be joined in January by the first of a new generation of frigates.