Russia has sealed a controversial deal to buy some 12 unmanned aerial vehicles - also known as UAVs or drones - from Israel, costing around $50m.

It is Russia's first military technology purchase since 1940.

Talks about the deal started shortly after Russia's brief war against Georgia last August.

Tbilisi operated Israeli-made drones, which seemed highly sophisticated in comparison to the Russian UAVs.
 
However, Moscow says they do not intend to use the Israeli drones, but simply reverse-engineer and build them domestically.
 
From the Israeli perspective, there are concerns over the deal because Russia is an ally of and the main arms supplier to Iran and Syria - countries with a history of animosity towards Israel. 
 
And so Israel has set specific conditions in the deal which prevent Moscow from selling its advanced air-defence system to Iran.

Russians have agreed not to sell the system to Syria. In addition, the sale of some advanced fighter aircrafts to Syria has also been frozen.

Inside Story asks whether this is a major development in Israeli-Russian relations and what implications, if any, this may have on Moscow's role in the Middle East.

Presenter Hashem Ahelbarra is joined by Eli Bardenstein, a journalist at Maariv newspaper who specialises in Israel-Russian relations, Pavel Falgenhauer, a military and political analyst, and Riad Kahwaji, the director of the Institute for Near East Gulf Military Analysis.

This episode of Inside Story aired from Sunday, June 28, 2009. 

Source: Al Jazeera