Orange CEO Stephane Richard
Orange CEO Stephane RichardReuters

The head of French telecoms group Orange, Stephane Richard, said Monday he was "radically opposed" to any trade boycott of Israel after he sparked a row by saying he would "dump" Israel and followed through with his threat last Thursday.

"It was never the question for a second that Orange would withdraw from Israel," he told French TV station BFMTV, confirming that he would travel in the coming days to the Jewish state following an invite from the Israeli government, reports AFP.

Richard said in Cairo last Wednesday that he would cut ties with the Israeli company Partner, which franchises the Orange name in Israel, "tomorrow" or as soon as he could do so without taking a financial loss.

The announcement was followed by Orange announcing the following day that it would cut off business with Partner.

Trying to soften the move in an interview with Israeli media last week, Richard claimed he was unfamiliar with the boycott movement against Israel, despite the fact the movement had pressed him to boycott Israel for the past several months.

Richard claimed the move was made out of business interests, although Orange just recently signed a ten-year extension of its contract with Partner, placing serious doubts on that claim.

Orange is partially state-owned, meaning the French government has a large share in the telecoms giant.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius last Friday said, "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."

Likewise Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday said "the boycott of Israel is unacceptable. I'm not saying there was a desire by the company (Orange) to boycott, but I will say that it is not this way that we will make peace."