Netanyahu Instructs Israel's Paris Embassy to Turn Down Orange CEO's Request to Meet

Prime minister, who is also the foreign minister, tells staff to convey to Stephane Richard that if he wishes to offer explanations on the firm's relations to Israel, he was invited to come to Israel to do so.

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

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who holds the foreign portfolio, has ordered the Israeli embassy in Paris to reject Orange CEO Stephane Richard's request to meet the Israeli ambassador there, in order to apologize for his remarks about cutting off ties with Israel's Partner Communications.

A senior Israeli official said that Netanyahu instructed the Foreign Ministry to respond to Richard's request with the message that if the CEO wished to offer any explanations on the matter, he was invited to come to Israel to do so.

Following the row last week over Orange's plan to end a licensing deal, Richard said Saturday that his firm had no plans to leave Israel. A day after apologizing to the Israeli deputy prime minister, Stephane Richard told AFP he "sincerely regrets" the furor caused by his remarks, adding that Orange "is in Israel to stay."

Israel protested to France after Richard said the 25 percent state-owned telecom group planned to terminate an arrangement with Israel's Partner Communications, drawing accusations Orange was bending to a pro-Palestinian boycott movement.

"Orange does not support any form of boycott, in Israel or anywhere else in the world," Richard said in comments emailed to news agency Agence France Presse and confirmed by an Orange spokesman.

"Our decision on the use of the brand is motivated - as it is all over the world - solely by our brand strategy. Let me make it very clear that the Orange Group is in Israel to stay."

Orange is present in Israel via Orange Business Services, Internet television unit Viaccess-Orca, and Orange laboratories.

Richard had been quoted by media reports as saying at a news conference in Cairo on Wednesday that he was willing to withdraw the Orange brand from Israel "tomorrow morning."

An Orange spokesman said there had been a "huge misunderstanding," and that Richard had not been referring to exiting the country.

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