The German Defense Ministry will notify lawmakers shortly that it will proceed with plans to lease Israeli-built Heron-TP surveillance drones, a program that was delayed last year, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen told top military officers on Monday.

The ministry had postponed its plan to lease five of the unarmed drones, a deal valued by security sources at around 1 billion euros, amid concerns over their future use raised by the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) in the final months of the last coalition government.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and SPD agreed in their new coalition accord signed in February to lease the drones built by Israel Aerospace Industries [ISRAI.UL], while work continues on a separate program to develop a new European-built drone.

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