Israel’s defense ministry of Monday lifted an earlier ban on sales of so-called “suicide” drones to Azerbaijan by a company that live-tested its products on Artsakh positions by an order from Baku, which is considered a violation of Israeli law.
In 2017, Israel’s defense ministry suspended the sale of the Kamikaze drones manufactured by Aeronautics Ltd. to Azerbaijan, after reports of live testing the drones on Artsakh targets was reported, resulting in a criminal investigation.
Last week, the defense ministry suspended the export licenses of three high-level company officials effective April of this year. While this suspension remain in effect for the individuals, the company has been cleared to complete a deal estimated at $20 million with Azerbaijan paving the way for Azeri forces to use the drones on Artsakh targets.
It is worth noting that according to the Times of Israel Aeronautics Ltd. the defense ministry’s ruling on Monday came three weeks after Aeronautics Ltd. was sold to Rafaek, a state-run defense contractor for a reported $231.7 million.
In 2017, it was reported that officials of the company refused the request to carry out live testing of the the Orbiter 1K suicide drone system on live Artsakh targets, and after being threatened by Azerbaijani, senior representative of the company armed and operated the drone, which is said to have missed its target without causing damage.
According to reports by the Artsakh Armed Forces, Azerbaijani forces carried out a drone attack in northeastern Artsakh on July 7, 2017, injuring two soldiers.
Armenia’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday reacted to lifting of the ban by Israel’s defense ministry, saying that the international arms race in the region is extremely dangerous
“We will raise this issue both in our bilateral meetings [with Israeli officials] and on multilateral platforms … We will keep telling our international partners that an arms race is extremely dangerous for our region,” said Anna Naghdalyan, the spokesperson of the foreign ministry on Tuesday.
In August 2018, Israel’s justice ministry moved to charge high-level executives of Aeronautics Ltd. with violating Israeli laws on security export controls. The Aeronautics Ltd. officials at the time denied any wrongdoing.
Azerbaijani forces vastly used drones, manufactured by another Israeli company, during the massive attack they launched in April, 2016. Artsakh forces destroyed or seized the drones during the defense of what has become known as the Four-Day War.
While official Baku will be able to completer its $20 million purchase of “suicide” drones, the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairing countries—Russia, France and the U.S.—tasked with mediating an end to the Karabakh conflict must unequivocally condemn Israel’s continued insistence on inserting itself in the conflict and becoming an obstacle for its peaceful resolution.