French aircraft carrier to dock in Cyprus amid Turkey drilling dispute

The Charles de Gaulle is en route to the eastern Mediterranean to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria

epa08155279 A military staff looks at Rafale jet fighters taking off from the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle at sea, off the coast of the city of Hyeres, France, 23 January 2020.  EPA/PHILIPPE LOPEZ / POOL MAXPPP OUT
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France's Charles De Gaulle aircraft carrier will stop at the port of Limassol in Cyprus next month as Paris moves to strengthen its military presence in the eastern Mediterranean.

French Ambassador to Cyprus Isabelle Dumont told the Cyprus News Agency the aircraft carrier would arrive in the region in “just a few days” to take part in coalition operations against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

The carrier will make a port call in Limassol at the end of its mission. Ms Dumont said the presence of the aircraft carrier was intended “to stabilise the region”.

Limassol will be the only port visited by the nuclear-powered carrier during its mission, Ms Dumont said.

Cyprus – an EU member along with France – is locked in a dispute over Turkish gas exploration that has seen warships and armed drones deployed to protect drilling ships.

Backed by the EU, Cyprus claims Turkey has no right to drill for hydrocarbons in its territorial waters.

But Turkey, the only country to recognise the self-styled Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, says the drilling is taking place inside its continental shelf and last year signed a controversial agreement with the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) to extend its drilling rights.

Ms Dumont expressed France’s opposition to Ankara’s controversial exploration.

“The actions of Turkey in the region are very concerning to us,” Ms Dumont said.

“The French position is very clear … what Turkey is doing in the EEZ (exclusive economic zone) of Cyprus is contrary to international law.”

Ms Dumont said France condemned the agreement between Turkey and the GNA, calling it “disrespectful".

France is planning to expand its naval footprint in the eastern Mediterranean and last year signed an agreement with Cyprus to use the Evangelos Florakis naval base in Mari, on the island’s south coast.

Cyprus is working to expand the base to make it capable of hosting French warships as part of an EU military investment program.

The United States and Britain both also use Cyprus as a military base for carrying out missions in the Middle East.