Armenia protested sharply to Israel last week following the Azerbaijani army’s use of an Israeli-made suicide drone to attack an Armenian convoy during renewed fighting in the Armenian separatist enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.
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It is one of the most violent rounds of hostilities since war ended in the region 10 years ago.
A senior official in Jerusalem said the Armenians protested Israel’s supply of the weapon to Azerbaijan and its use against their army.
Video footage posted on Youtube a few days ago appears to show an Israeli-made Harop suicide drone flying over the disputed region, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday.
The drone, which carries explosives, finds its target based on radar or radio wave emissions and is meant to destroy the target by crashing into it.
The Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman said one of these drones had crashed into a bus full of Armenian “volunteers” on their way to the battle zone, killing seven.
In 2007, Israel Aircraft Industries signed a $1.6 billion deal with the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry that included the supply of drones.
The Armenian ambassador to Egypt, Armen Melkonian, who also serves as his country’s ambassador to Israel, visited Israel last week. A senior official in Jerusalem said Melkonian met with Dan Orian, a department head in the Foreign Ministry’s Euro-Asian branch. Melkonian lodged a strong official protest to Orian over the incident and over the supply of Israeli weapons to Azerbaijan.
The Azerbaijani government also protested Israel’s conduct last week. The political adviser to Azerbaijani President Ali Hasanov told the Jerusalem Post that his country expected Israel to speak publicly about the fighting and use its ties to the United States to pressure Armenia to stop fighting and enter negotiations.
Most of the inhabitants of Nagorno-Karabakh, which constitutes 20 percent of Azerbaijani territory, are Armenian. In 1991, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Nagorno-Karabakh announced its independence. This led to a bloody war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which ended in 1994. The Armenians were able to conquer the entire region, establishing territorial contiguity between Nagorno-Karobakh and Armenia.
Israel and Azerbaijan have a strategic alliance going back many years. The fact that Azerbaijan is a secular Muslim country, and its geographical proximity to Iran, make it very important to Israel. Azerbaijan is also one of Israel’s major suppliers of oil.