JERUSALEM, YEREVAN—The Israeli Defense Ministry said it is investigating allegations that Azerbaijan asked an Israeli defense firm to carry out live demonstrations of a suicide drone system, which it sold to Azerbaijan, on Artsakh targets.
The Israeli daily Maariv on Sunday reported that Aeronautics Defense System, which manufactures the drone, sent a team to Azerbaijan to finalize a sale of its Orbiter 1K unarmed aircraft. The Israeli team was asked by the Azerbaijani army to test the drones, armed with explosives, on a military position in Artsakh.
Maariv, which reported about the complaint, added that Aeronautics Defense System strongly denied that its staff carried out the alleged test saying the company “never carries out demonstrations [of the operations of the drone] on live targets, and that was true in this case as well.”
The existence of the complaint was reported Sunday by the Israeli daily paper Maariv. For its part however, Aeronautics Defense Systems strongly denied that its staff carried out such a mission, saying that it was carried out by the purchaser of the aircraft.
According to Maariv, however, the two Israeli drone operators refused to hit the Artsakh target, and after firmly refusing and being threatened by Azerbaijanis, senior representatives of the company armed and operated the drone, which is said to have missed its target without causing damage.
The complaint, however, states that one of them hit about 330 feet from the intended target.
The complaint against the company was filed with the ministry’s Defense Export Controls Agency, which oversees the activities of the country’s defense contractors. The defense ministry said, “As a rule,” it does not “make it a practice to comment on issues involving military exports. The claim is being examined by the relevant parties at the ministry.”
“Aeronautics markets its products to customers in about 50 different countries,[and] only in accordance with approval from the Defense Export Controls Agency. The operational action was carried out by the purchaser alone and on its responsibility. Aeronautics has never carried out demonstrations on live targets, and that was true in this case as well,” said a statement from Aeronautics Defense System.
Official Baku has boasted it reported purchase of $5 billion in arms from Israel, which were used on Artsakh targets during the April 2016 war, when a Harop aircraft, manufactured by the Israel Aerospace Industries, hit a bus and killed seven Armenians on board.
The Artsakh Army said that Azerbaijan used a suicide drone to attack its positions in northeastern Artsakh as recently as July 7. According to Colonel Armen Gyozalian of the Artsakh Army, two soldiers were injured during that attack, but no hardware was damaged.
Armenia’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tigran Balayan told Armenpress that the ministry is monitoring the reports about the drone testing.
“We are aware of those issues and are following them. Processes are underway. We carefully follow all developments related to Artsakh’s security,” said Balayan.
The spokesperson said that Armenia has a clear position on arms sales to Azerbaijan by any country and that stance has not changed.
Armenia’s Honorary Consul to Israel, Tsolag Moumjian, told Azatutyun.am that he, as well as Armenia’s foreign ministry are carefully following the developments since Sunday’s publication of the report, adding that the Armenian community in Israel was also extremely interested in the matter.
Hagop Sevan, the chairman of the Armenian National Committee of Jerusalem, called the allegation of the testing the drones on live targets “criminal”
“They [Israeli officials] have conduct an internal investigation and make decisions. For Israel to carry out such tests of its military hardware is nothing but criminal,” said Sevan adding that the ANC of Jerusalem has filed numerous complaints since the 2016 April war urging Israel to withraw its military experts from Azerbaijan.
Sevan said that this did not amount to Israel’s overt involvement in the war, but what has happened is a “hostile act” toward Armenia.