Israel Demands France Distance Itself From Orange CEO's Call to Sever Ties

Stephane Richard said his company intends to withdraw the Orange brand from Israel as soon as possible; French ambassador to Washington on Twitter: It is illegal to contribute to settlements.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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Stephane Richard, chief executive officer of Orange SA, reacts during a news conference to announce the company's earnings in Paris, France, on March 6, 2014.Credit: Bloomberg
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

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.

A senior official in Jerusalem said that the Israeli ambassador to Paris, Yossi Gal, sent a message of protest over the matter to officials in the Elysee Palace and in France's foreign and finance ministries.

The senior official added that the Israeli ambassador was instructed to demand that the government in Paris clearly issue its opposition to the Orange CEO's remarks, as 25 percent of the company's shares belong to the government-owned company France Telcom.

France's ambassador to Washington, Gerard Araud, who in the past served as ambassador to Israel, posted on his Twitter account Wednesday that the French government had no reason to intervene in the matter, as the company is private.

In response to one of his followers on Twitter, the ambassador wrote that the Orange CEO had made his remarks with regard to Partner Communications' operations in the occupied territories.

In another Twitter post, Araud wrote remarks that could be seen as expressions of support for the Orange CEO: "4th Geneva Convention: settlement policy in occupied territories is illegal. It is illegal to contribute to it in any way."

Speaking at a news conference in Cairo on Wednesday, Stephane Richard said his company intends to withdraw the Orange brand from Israel as soon as possible, but that the move would take time.

"I am ready to abandon this tomorrow morning but the point is that I want to secure the legal risk for the company. I want to terminate this, once again, but I don't want to expose Orange to a level of risk and of penalties that could be really sizable for the company," he said.