Orange CEO Stephane Richard is expected to visit Israel at the end of the week, a senior government official said on Wednesday, after sparking a diplomatic spat over his remarks about ending a licensing deal there.
Israel protested to France after Richard said last week that 25 percent state-owned Orange planned to terminate an arrangement with Israel's Partner Communications, and that he would do so "tomorrow morning" if the contracts allowed.The remarks angered Israel, which fears diplomatic and economic isolation over the deadlock in peacemaking with the Palestinians and its settlements in occupied territory that most world powers deem illegal.
Orange later suggested Richard's comments were not political, saying they reflected a broader desire and strategy of not licensing its brand where it was not directly in control of the business.
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said in an interview with Israel's Army Radio that Richard "is supposed to arrive at the end of the week, as far as I know." She had no details about his trip but confirmed Israeli media reports that Richard had written a letter of apology for his comments.
Richard had accepted an invitation earlier this week from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit Israel, but neither side had said yet when the trip would take place.
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