Swiss military officials visited Golan Heights to assess drone purchase despite Switzerland’s refusal to recognise Israel’s occupation of the Syrian territory.
The visits by officials from the Federal Department of Defenceexternal link came at the invitation of Israeli technology company Elbit Systemsexternal link, which eventually sold six unarmed “Hermes 900” surveillance drones to the Swiss for CHF250 million ($249.9 million). Ignoring the instructions of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairsexternal link, three Swiss delegations visited the Pik aerodrome in 2012, 2013 and 2015 for drone test flights and training. The Pik aerodrome is in Golan Heights, a territory annexed by Israel in the Six Day War in 1967 and not recognised by Switzerland according to the United Nations Security Council Resolution 242.
“At the time nobody realised that the Pik aerodrome, located east of the Sea of Galilee, is in occupied territory and that official representatives of Switzerland are not allowed to go there for activities related to the Israeli government or companies,” said a statement released by the defence ministry on Wednesday.
The mistake was flagged up during internal checks in August and no further visits to Golan Heights have taken place. Another aerodrome has been identified for test flights and training. However, half of the cost of shifting operations must be covered by the defence ministry and will come out of the budget allocated for acquiring the new Israeli drones.
swissinfo.ch and agencies