Armenia has called on Israel to put an end to large-scale supplies of Israeli-made weapons to Azerbaijan used by the latter in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
“Arms trade with Azerbaijan is fatal because Azerbaijan never hesitates to use those weapons against civilian infrastructure and the civilian population,” Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian told “The Jerusalem Post” newspaper in an interview published on Wednesday.
“We will consistently pursue this issue and it will always be an integral part of our agenda both on bilateral and multilateral platforms,” said Mnatsakanian. “Israel should stop this deadly business with Azerbaijan.”
Over the past decade Israeli defense companies have sold, with the Israeli government’s blessing, billions of dollars worth of advanced military hardware to Azerbaijan.
The Azerbaijani army used some of those weapons, notably sophisticated anti-tank rockets and attack drones, during April 2016 hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh. It also deployed Israeli-manufactured drones against Armenian military and civilian targets during the recent deadly fighting on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.
The Armenian military claims to have shot down or intercepted 13 such unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). It demonstrated some of their purported fragments last week.
The Defense Ministry in Yerevan went on to publicize a photograph of two Armenian officers standing next to a SkyStriker “suicide” drone manufactured by the Israeli company Elbit Systems. A ministry spokesman claimed that it was brought down by an electronic warfare system.
“Our military has neutralized Azerbaijani weapons regardless of their perceived origins,” Mnatsakanian said when asked about the Israeli drones.
Armenia has long expressed concern over Israel’s arms deals with Azerbaijan. The Jewish state appears to have ignored those concerns so far. This did not stop the current Armenian government from deciding last September to open an embassy in Tel Aviv.
The move was hailed by Israeli leaders but criticized by some officials in Iran, a key foreign partner of Armenia. The Armenian ambassador to Iran, Artashes Tumanian, assured a senior Iranian Foreign Ministry official in June that Yerevan remains committed to its “friendly” relationship with the Islamic Republic despite its desire to improve Armenian-Israeli ties.
Incidentally, Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan discussed the Armenian-Azerbaijani border clashes on Wednesday with Iran’s ambassador and military attaché to Armenia. According to Tonoyan’s press office, they specifically spoke about Azerbaijan’s “use of a large number of modern UAVs” and “the effectiveness of the fight against them.”