PARIS (AP) — France's foreign minister is criticizing any boycott of Israel, amid uproar over French telecom giant Orange's announcement that it wants to cut ties with Israel.
Laurent Fabius said in a statement Friday that it is up to Orange to determine its business strategy, but "France is firmly opposed to a boycott of Israel."
Orange's chief executive Stephane Richard said in Cairo on Wednesday he wants to end his company's relationship with an Israeli partner because of sensitivity to Arab countries.
The announcement angered Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and boosted a growing movement seeking boycotts of companies that operate in West Bank settlements.
It's unclear whether the French government, with a 13 percent stake in Orange, would try to influence the company's actions in Israel.
While distancing the government from Orange's position, Fabius also reiterated Europe's longstanding opposition to the settlements. The settlements are widely seen internationally as thwarting efforts for lasting peace because they are built on land the Palestinians want for a future state.
Netanyahu said Friday that Richard's "subsequent words of admiration for Israel don't square with his unequivocally hostile remarks in Cairo."
Israeli officials say the movement to boycott aims to delegitimize the country's very existence as a Jewish state. "It's not about this or that Israeli policy. It's about our right to exist here as a free people," Netanyahu said in remarks sent to journalists.