Orange CEO Stephane Richard
Orange CEO Stephane RichardReuters

The Israeli telecoms firm at the heart of a controversy involving France's Orange that has caused a diplomatic storm said Saturday it is unhappy with Orange's response to the matter, according to AFP

Partner, Israel's second largest mobile operator, said Orange chairman Stephane Richard's declared intent to sever the agreement granting Partner use of the Orange name "continue to cause enormous damage to the Orange brand in Israel and hurt Israeli citizens."

"The recent statements... are nothing more than a smokescreen, the object of which is to manipulate public opinion in Israel and the world," Saturday's statement said, slamming what it called Richard's "offensive statements, apologies and vague and evasive expressions."

"Partner wishes to stress that  we have to this day received no official communication (from Orange)."

"We demand direct dialogue with... Stephane Richard who, until now, has avoided speaking directly with (this) company; inexplicable conduct in our eyes."

Speaking at a conference in Egypt, Richard said he wished he could dump" Israel "tomorrow" last week. A day later the French company announced it has decided to halt its operations in Israel and end its partnership with the Israeli company Partner, which franchises Orange's name in Israel.

After his remarks infuriated Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, sparked a boycott call from Israeli citizens, unified the Israeli political echelon in condemnations, and inspired damage control from French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Richard played dumb in a Yediot Aharonot interview Friday. 

Despite having recently signed a 10-year extension deal with Partner, Richard claimed Friday that his statements were due to "business considerations," not his political views.

"It has nothing to do with Israel, we love Israel, we are working and investing money to Israel, we are friends of Israel," he touted.

Richard also claimed he was unaware of the global BDS movement against Israel, despite it making headlines on nearly a monthly basis for the past five to ten years - and it being a major source of tension between the European Union and Israel.

"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."