French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius
French Foreign Minister Laurent FabiusReuters

France's foreign minister on Friday said Paris was "firmly opposed" to any boycott of Israel as a row rages over French telecom group Orange's decision to withdraw its brand from the Jewish state.

"Although it is for the president of the Orange group to determine the commercial strategy of the company, France is firmly opposed to a boycott of Israel," Laurent Fabius said in a statement, as reported by AFP.

Fabius also used the opportunity to bash Israel's presence in Judea and Samaria - which is legal under international law and yet was part of the pressure on Orange to cut ties with Israel - saying, "also, France and the European Union have a consistent policy on settlement-building that is known to all."

Orange is largely publicly owned, meaning the French government has a large share in the company that on Thursday said it will cut ties with the Israeli company Partner which franchises its name in Israel.

That move came just a day after Orange CEO Stephane Richard said in Cairo he would "dump" Israel "tomorrow" if he could without taking a loss.

Richard tried to play damage control on Friday, claiming to the Israeli Yediot Aharonoth that his move to cut off from Israel - which came after months of intense pressure from the BDS movement urging a boycott Israel and Partner over its service to customers in Judea and Samaria - was "misunderstood."

While Richard tried to claim that the move was taken out of business considerations and not from political views, a claim Fabius apparently gave credence to in saying it was for Orange to determine its commercial strategy, critics have noted that Orange just recently signed a 10-year extension deal with Partner belying the economic incentive to its new position.

His move also comes following a BDS push to have his company boycott Israel, but Richard claimed on Friday he was unaware of the incredibly vocal movement, saying "I never said that Orange wants to break away from Israel, I was not aware of the global campaign for a boycott against you, and I'm sorry about that." 

Partner is reportedly considering launching a massive lawsuit against Orange for its discriminatory decision.