Orange chief in Israel after boycott scandal

The boss of French telecoms giant Orange arrived Thursday in Israel for a two-day visit after his company’s plans to review ties with a local firm sparked a boycott row.

Two Israeli officials confirmed Stephane Richard had landed at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv shortly before 1100 GMT, with the company saying he would meet with Israeli officials and Orange staff.

Orange said Richard wanted to “clarify the misunderstanding” sparked by his remarks during a press conference in Cairo on June 3 in which he said the firm was planning to withdraw its brand from Israel.

His comments were widely interpreted as a response to a report by a group of NGOs which accused Orange of indirectly supporting settlement activity through its brand licensing agreement with Israel’s Partner Communications.

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

But Richard insisted there was no political motivation, saying the decision was solely driven by Orange’s brand strategy.

At the weekend, he told AFP he “sincerely regrets” the furore and shortly afterwards, the Israeli government extended an invitation for him to visit the Jewish state, saying he would be “a welcome visitor.”

Partner, Israel’s second largest mobile operator which has a licence to use the Orange brand, had insisted he travel to the country to explain himself.

Richard quickly accepted the invitation.


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