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Orange CEO apologizes for Israel pullout remarks in letter to French Jewish leader

WJC, In a letter to the president of the French Jewish umbrella organization CRIF, the CEO of the French telecoms giant Orange, Stéphane Richard, apologized for his recent comments in Cairo "to pull out of Israel tomorrow, if possible" and said they were open to misinterpretation.

Stéphane RichardStéphane RichardRichard reiterated that Orange - the former France Télécom whose biggest shareholder is the French State - had no intention of closing down its activities in Israel.

In his letter to CRIF President Roger Cukierman, Richard wrote: "Allow me to express my profound apologies for the misleading statements I 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."

Richard stressed that "Orange as an international company does not engage in any shape or form in political debates and is entirely focused on its business." He categorically rejected accusations that "Orange ceded to political pressure to ends its agreement with Partner in Israel." Partner is an independent Israeli company using the Orange brand name to provide mobile telephone services.

Richard denied reports that Orange wants to withdraw from the Israeli market. "I never said such a thing, as that would have been absurd," he wrote in his letter, asking the CRIF president for a meeting to explain the different activities of Orange Group in Israel.

Meanwhile, AFP reported that Richard arrived for a two-day visit to Israel to speak with officials and Orange staff on the ground.

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