France 'Firmly Opposed to Boycott of Israel,' Says FM Fabius

But business strategy is at the firm's discretion, says French FM, adding that France holds a well-known stance against Israel's West Bank settlements policy.

AP

France is 'firmly opposed to a boycott of Israel,' French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Friday, offering his first response in the name of the French government after the French telecom operator firm Orange said on Thursday it wants to end its brand licensing deal with the Israeli firm that operates under its name.

Fabius said that even if it's at the firm's discretion to decide on its business strategy, the French government is opposed to any boycott of Israel.

The French FM added that France, along with the European Union, holds a consistent and well known stance against Israel's settlements in the West Bank.

Orange would cut ties 'tomorrow'

French telecom operator Orange said on Thursday it planned to end its brand licensing deal with the Israeli firm Partner Communications, a day after comments by its chief executive drew criticism from the Israeli government.

"In line with its brand policy, Orange does not want to keep its brand presence in countries where it is not an operator. Within this framework, and while strictly respecting existing accords, Orange would like to put an end to this brand licencing," it said in a statement.

The response came after Israel demanded Thursday that the French government clearly distance itself from the remarks made a day earlier by the CEO of Orange regarding the cellular company's intention to sever relations with Israel's Partner Communications.

Orange's Chief Executive Stephane Richard told a Cairo audience on Wednesday that his company would cut its ties in Israel “tomorrow” were it not for the “huge risk” in terms of penalties. He said the decision was in part due to the firm's relations with Arab countries. Orange said his comments were taken out of context.

Partner threatens suit after shares tank on TASE

The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange shares of Partner Communications, the Israeli telecom firm pays the French firm to operate under the Orange brand, closed down 1.07% on Thursday, a day after the CEO's remarks.

In a letter sent Thursday morning to employees, Partner CEO Haim Romano expressed his shock about the remarks, and said Partner would sue the company for hundreds of millions of euros if it breached its contract with the Israeli company.