Cameron offers France airbase in Cyprus in anti-ISIL fight

Cameron offers France airbase in Cyprus in anti-ISIL fight

Cameron offers France airbase in Cyprus in anti-ISIL fight

British Prime Minister David Cameron (C) walks with Group Captain David Manning, (R) past an RAF Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jet (background) during his visit to Royal Air Force station RAF Northolt, in west London on November 23, 2015, before presenting his government's Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) to Parliament later today. AFP photo

British Prime Minister David Cameron pledged strong support to France in its bid to gain international backing for efforts to crush the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group in the wake of the Paris attacks and offered the use of its airbase on the Cyprus island.

Cameron said Nov. 23, he had offered France the use of a British airbase in Cyprus for air strikes, and assistance with refueling French jets.

“Today I’ve offered President Hollande the use of RAF Akrotiri for French aircraft engaged in counter-ISIL operations and additional assistance with air-to-air refuelling,” Cameron said in a statement to reporters alongside Hollande on Nov. 23, referring to an airbase located in the south of Cyprus. 

“I firmly support the action President Hollande has taken to strike ISIL in Syria,” Cameron said, after he and Hollande laid a wreath at the Bataclan concert venue, where 89 people alone had been killed during the Nov. 13 Paris attacks that claimed a total of 130 people.

He said that he would make his case to the British parliament in the coming days about joining air strikes on Syria. “It’s my firm conviction that Britain should do so too,” he added.

While Britain has joined US-led coalition strikes on ISIL in Iraq, it has so far held back from hitting targets in Syria, where the jihadists also hold large swaths of territory.

Speaking before he also meets the US, Russian and German leaders in the coming days, Hollande said Britain and France had a “joint obligation” to strike at the jihadist group.

Meanwhile, warplanes took off Nov. 23 from France’s Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, newly deployed to the eastern Mediterranean, for operations over areas held by ISIL in Iraq and Syria, military sources told Agence France-Press.  

Rafale jets loaded with bombs were catapulted from the carrier’s flight deck Nov. 23 morning, an AFP reporter saw. Speaking to AFP, the sources did not indicate the nature of the operations, which come 10 days after the deadly attacks in Paris that left 130 dead.

Hollande, who has said France is in a “war” against the jihadists, is embarking on what could be a defining week of his three-year-old presidency.

On Nov. 24, he will fly to Washington for talks with U.S. President Barack Obama and a day later will meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Paris.

The focus switches to Moscow on Nov. 26 where he will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has pledged to work more closely with the West against ISIL following the Paris attacks and the downing of a Russian passenger jet over Egypt last month.  

Completing a series of meetings with each of France’s fellow UN Security Council members, Hollande will see Chinese President Xi Jinping for a working dinner in the French capital on Nov.29.

The UN Security Council on Nov. 20 authorized countries to “take all necessary measures” to fight ISIL in a resolution that won unanimous backing in the wake of the bloodshed in Paris.

The measure drafted by France calls on all UN member states to “redouble and coordinate their efforts to prevent and suppress terrorist attacks” committed by ISIL and other extremist groups linked to Al-Qaeda.