JERUSALEM (JTA) – The CEO of Orange arrived in Israel to “clarify the misunderstanding” over his remarks that led to accusations about a boycott of Israel by the French telecom firm.
Stephane Richard began a two-day visit on Thursday, according to the French news agency AFP, citing the company.
The visit comes in the wake of statements last week by Richard in Cairo that his company, which is 25 per cent owned by the French government, would end its Israeli presence if it were not contractually bound to the Israeli firm Partner. A day later Orange announced that it would seek to cancel a recently signed 10-year arrangement with Partner in Israel. The announcement led to accusations of a boycott against Israel by the company.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in his capacity as acting foreign minister, instructed the Foreign Ministry last week to turn down a request by Richard to meet with the Israeli envoy in France to clarify his remarks, saying he could come to Israel to set the record straight.
Netanyahu spoke to French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and French President Francois Hollande, who reiterated their opposition to boycotts against Israel.
Richard already has sent a letter of apology to Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely.
On Thursday it was reported that Richard also sent a letter of apology to Roger Cukierman, president of the French Jewish umbrella organization CRIF. In the letter, Richard apologized for the “misleading statements” he made in Egypt.
“I frankly recognize that they were open to misinterpretation and were also misused by some for their own ends. The result was a controversy over Orange and Israel which was disproportionate. I am particularly concerned by the impact of this on the Jewish community, and believe me, this has touched me personally in the most profound fashion,” he wrote
Richard invited Cukierman for a face-to-face meeting to discuss the different activities of Orange in Israel.
Orange maintains two subsidiaries in Israel: Orange Business Services and Viaccess-Orca, a specialist in Internet television.