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Orange CEO Stephane Richard. (Photo: AP)
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Richard: Orange 'in Israel to stay'
CEO of French telecom giant tells reporters that he regrets 'controversy'; Partner: Richard's apologies are a 'smoke cloud' to sway public opinion.
The chairman of Orange told AFP on Saturday that he "sincerely" regretted a "controversy" over the French telecom group's relations with Israel, saying, the Orange Group "is in Israel to stay."

 

 

Stephane Richard denied that the company's decision to end its brand-licensing agreement with Partner, Israel's second largest mobile operator, "as soon as possible from a contractual point of view," in any way implied that Orange was seeking to withdraw from the Jewish state.

 

Orange CEO Stephane Richard. (Photo: AP) (Photo: AP)
Orange CEO Stephane Richard. (Photo: AP)

 

Partner responded to Richard's repeated apologies on Saturday night with sharp criticism for the CEO's "smoke cloud" which Partner said was only an attempt to turn public opinion back in his favor.

 

"His offensive statements, apologies, vague wording and evasiveness continue to cause enormous damage to the Orange brand in Israel and harm Israeli citizens," said the Israeli company.

 

Richard's new comments came just two days after Orange announced its intentions to end its deal with partner, stating that the company no longer wishes to allow the use of its brand in countries where it doesn't provide direct service.

 

The Orange told Ynet Friday that Orange is involved in other capacities in Israel. "We have people in Israel; we are very happy to be in Israel. We have a lot of links and relationships of any kind you can imagine in Israel."

 

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Meanwhile French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius sought to calm the row with Israel on Friday, saying France opposed any boycott of the Jewish state but stressed that Orange was free to define its own policy.

 

Later Friday, Richard took the unusual step of requesting to meet Israel's ambassador to Paris, Yossi Gal, in order to clarify his statements.

 

Partner employees protest the BDS movement.
Partner employees protest the BDS movement.
 

 

Gal had called on the French government Thursday to condemn Richard's remarks. He also contacted the French Foreign Ministry and Economy Ministry to express the gravity with which Israel views the remarks.

 

Other Israeli officials were quick to anger as well in response to Orange's decision to stop working with Partner, as well as comments from Richard in Cairo last week when he said that he intended to pull Orange's name out of Israel as soon as possible.

 

Itamar Eichner contributed to this report.

 


First published: 06.06.15, 19:24
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