US Delivers F-16s to Egypt Ahead of Kerry Visit

US Delivers F-16s to Egypt Ahead of Kerry VisitUS Delivers F-16s to Egypt Ahead of Kerry Visit

The United States began Thursday the delivery of eight F-16 fighter jets to Egypt, according to its embassy in Cairo, the first since Washington fully lifted in March a freeze on arms delivery.

The operation comes as the US Secretary of State John Kerry prepares to visit Cairo for a “strategic dialogue” on Sunday amid a warming in ties that were strained after the Egyptian Army ousted the country’s Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, AFP reported.

The eight F-16 Block 52 jets “are being flown in directly from the United States and will be immediately integrated into the Egyptian air force, joining its existing fleet of F-16 aircraft,” the embassy said.

All eight from this first batch will arrive by Friday, with four more to be delivered later this year. In addition, the US will continue providing follow-on support, maintenance and training for Egyptian pilots and ground crews.

Following the overthrow of Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected leader, Washington froze $1.3 billion in annual military aid to Egypt.

A police crackdown has left hundreds of Morsi supporters dead in street clashes, thousands more have been jailed and many sentenced to death in hasty trials.

It fully resumed assistance in March, as Cairo took delivery of two US fast missile boats last month. Washington had already delivered 10 Apache helicopters in December.

Egypt has been battling militants in the Sinai Peninsula, who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group. It has also voiced growing concern about the militant presence in its western neighbor Libya, where IS has exploited a power struggle between rival governments to expand its presence.