Spain today said it had requested clarification from Israel after its agriculture minister decided to give visiting Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev a Spanish-made drone which may contain sensitive technology.
Earlier this month as Medvedev visited Israel, Uri Ariel gave him the drone - reportedly on display at a research centre - as a gift, despite being prohibited from doing so without prior Spanish authorisation.
Medvedev accepted the drone made by Spanish company Alpha Unmanned Systems, which Spanish and Israeli media reported was worth around 50,000 euros (USD 53,000) and may also have contained technology not meant to be shared.
A spokesman for Spain's foreign ministry told AFP Alpha Unmanned Systems sold the drone to Israel's Volcani Centre, which carries out agricultural research, "with an export licence in which this centre is listed as the final user."
The licence, according to the spokesman, also "stipulates that it is expressly forbidden to cede the equipment to third parties without the prior consent of Spanish authorities."
"Spain's government was not asked for this authorisation," he said, adding the foreign ministry had sent an official note to Israel's embassy in Madrid "seeking clarifications on the issue."
Ariel's ministry earlier issued a statement acknowledging that the drone was given to Medvedev, but said the gift had been approved by "the relevant professional officials".
It is unclear, though, whether Medvedev received the drone with or without its remote control or thermal camera, with Haaretz newspaper reporting that staff at the Volcani Centre had refused to give the components away.
The agriculture ministry said it would quickly purchase a new drone to replace it -- though some pointed out that this would have to come at taxpayers' expense.
The Movement for Quality Government in Israel called for Ariel to pay for the drone from his own pocket, while opposition politicians slammed Ariel's largesse.
Nachman Shai of the opposition Zionist Union said the minister from the far-right Jewish Home party had been duped into handing "knowledge and technologies to the wrong countries."
Stav Shaffir, a lawmaker also from the Zionist Union, called for Ariel's resignation.
Israel's embassy in Madrid was not immediately available for comment.
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