Or­ange CEO tells Is­rael PM Ne­tanyahu of deep re­gret over boy­cott row

The China Post - - WORLD BUSINESS -

The head of French tele­coms gi­ant Or­ange told Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Benjamin Ne­tanyahu on Fri­day he was dis­tressed by re­ac­tions to re­marks seen as back­ing a boy­cott of the Jewish State.

“I deeply re­gret the im­pact re­sult­ing from the con­text and in­ter­pre­ta­tion of those state­ments,” Or­ange quoted Stephane Richard as telling Ne­tanyahu at a meet­ing in Jerusalem.

A row erupted af­ter re­marks by Richard dur­ing a news con­fer­ence in Cairo on June 3 in which he said the firm was plan­ning to with­draw its brand from Is­rael at the ear­li­est pos­si­ble op­por­tu­nity.

Or­ange li­censes its name and logo for use by Is­raeli firm Part­ner Com­mu­ni­ca­tions un­der an agree­ment due to run un­til 2025.

Is­rael re­acted fu­ri­ously to Richard’s com­ments, ac­cus­ing him of bow­ing to a Pales­tinian-led boy­cott cam­paign.

The Or­ange chief flew into Is­rael on Thurs­day for a two-day visit in a bid to soothe Is­raeli anger.

“It’s no se­cret that what you said last week was in­ter­preted by many as an attack on Is­rael,” Ne­tanyahu’s of­fice quoted the prime min­is­ter as telling Richard at their meet­ing.

“We seek real and se­cure peace with our neigh­bors the Pales­tini­ans,” he said. “But this can only be achieved by di­rect ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the sides with­out pre­con­di­tions. It can­not be achieved by boy­cotts or threats of boy­cotts.”

Richard’s Cairo com­ments were in­ter­preted in Is­rael as a re­sponse to a re­port by a group of NGOs which ac­cused Or­ange of in­di­rectly sup­port­ing set­tle­ment ac­tiv­ity through its agree- ment with Part­ner.

Part­ner op­er­ates in Is­raeli set­tle­ments in the oc­cu­pied West Bank, which are il­le­gal un­der in­ter­na­tional law and widely op­posed by the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.

“This meet­ing is an op­por­tu­nity to say clearly and un­equiv­o­cally that Or­ange does not par­tic­i­pate in boy­cotts of Is­rael or else­where,” Richard said.

“Let me re­peat that Or­ange has com­pa­nies in Is­rael and in­tends to con­tinue to de­velop them,” he said, speak­ing of lo­cal sub­sidiaries un­con­nected to Part­ner.

Or­ange says Is­rael is the only coun­try in the world where it has a trade­mark agree­ment with a com­pany that is not a sub­sidiary.

Un­der the deal it can­not use the Or­ange name for its own ac­tiv­i­ties there.

In a re­cent let­ter to Is­rael’s Deputy For­eign Min­is­ter Tzipi Ho­tovely, seen by AFP, Richard wrote that the Or­ange group “has a last­ing pres­ence in Is­rael” through its Fab Is­rael startup ac­cel­er­a­tor pro­gram and sub­sidiaries such as its busi­ness ser­vices unit and In­ter­net tele­vi­sion spe­cial­ist Vi­ac­cess-Orca.

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