Orange CEO Stephane Richard
Orange CEO Stephane RichardReuters

French telecoms group Orange said its boss Stephane Richard arrived in Israel on Thursday for a two-day visit after his plans to cancel ties with a local firm sparked a boycott row.

Two Israeli officials confirmed Richard had landed at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv shortly before 1:00 p.m., with the company saying he
would meet with Israeli officials and Orange staff.

Richard was invited by Israel to "clarify the misunderstanding" after he said last week that Orange was going to withdraw its brand from the Jewish state.

His comments were seen as a reaction to a report accusing Orange of indirectly supporting so-called "settlement activity" in Judea and Samaria through its relationship with Israel's Partner Communications.

Israel reacted furiously, accusing Richard of bowing to a Palestinian-led boycott campaign.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed the campaign to snub Israeli goods was aimed at the "elimination" of the Jewish state.

Richard quickly tried to limit the damage, insisting there was no political motivation and telling AFP at the weekend that he "sincerely regrets" the furor.

"It was never the question for a second that Orange would withdraw from Israel," he told French TV station BFMTV.

Partner, Israel's second largest mobile operator which has a license to use the Orange brand, insisted that he travel to the country to explain himself and Richard was quick to accept an invitation from the government.