French telecom giant Orange plans to cut ties with Israel: CEO

Published June 3rd, 2015 - 07:18 GMT

The chief executive officer of a major European cell phone company said on Wednesday that he would gladly cut ties with Israel “tomorrow” if it wasn’t so financially prohibitive.

French telecom operator Orange Chairman and CEO Stephane Richard told reporters in Cairo that his company wished to distance itself from its role in facilitating Israel’s rule over the Palestinian territories.

Orange, which has an affiliate agreement with the Israeli firm Partner, is one of Israel’s largest cellular service providers.

Human rights organizations in France have been pressuring Orange to cease its business operations in Israel in protest of Jerusalem’s policies in the West Bank.

“Believe me I would cancel the contract tomorrow if I could,” Richard said. His comments were reported by the Daily News Egypt.

Richard said that the language of Orange's contract with its Israeli operator precludes it from pulling out.

“We didn’t renew the contract, we wanted to change the terms of the contract and include a termination date, as there previously wasn’t a termination date, and gave us no possibility of leaving the deal,” he said.

"We want to terminate this and to fix this, we don’t want it," he said. "In the existing contract, it gives us the option to terminate this without exposing this to a huge financial risk. If you were the CEO of this company you would act the same.” 

The executive said that the company is in a legally disadvantageous position when it comes to Israeli law.

“The only other possibility would be to enter a dispute with the partner, and I’m sorry to say but entering a dispute when you have zero legal grounds in Israeli courts is not something I would recommend for my company," Richard said. "I am not willing to pay hundreds of millions of euros just because I have to take a risk in terms of penalties.”

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