The CEO of the French telecom giant Orange called Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom on Friday and apologized for saying Orange intends to withdraw its business from Israel.
"I'm a friend of Israel, I love Israel. My words were taken out of context and misunderstood. I apologize in my name and in the company's name for these statements. We at Orange condemn boycotts of any kind," a statement by Shalom's spokesman quoted CEO Stephane Richard as saying.
On Wednesday, Richard told a Cairo audience 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.
Following criticism by Israel, Orange said the following day that Richard's comments were taken out of context, saying its plans to end its brand licensing deal with the Israeli firm Partner Communications are due to its brand policy, according to which "Orange does not want to keep its brand presence in countries where it is not an operator."
Following a demand by Israel's government that France clearly distance itself from Richard's statements, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said earlier on Friday that France is 'firmly opposed to a boycott of Israel.'
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.