JERUSALEM, June 8 (Xinhua) -- Israel joined Sunday Horizon 2020, a major EU research program, though its guidelines bar Israel from transferring funding to settlement-related projects, officials said in a statement sent to media.
The signing ceremony, which took place in Jerusalem, was witnessed by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"Israel is a strong player in research and innovation and for this reason an important partner for the EU," Barroso said in the statement."I am pleased that we are signing the agreement today since it reflects the mutual importance we attach to cooperation and partnership in research and innovation," he added.
Israel is the first non-European member in the 80-billion-euro program. "Under the terms of the agreement," a statement issued by the EU said, "Israel will have the same access to the program as EU Member States and other Associated Countries."
In August, the EU said that in order to take part in the program, Israel would have to accept its guidelines, which restrict European businesses and other entities from conducting trade or cooperating with Israeli organizations and companies operating in the West Bank territories.
The guidelines angered Israel because the document forced it to acknowledge -- in a written official form -- that the settlements are not part of Israel.
But in November, Israeli official announced they reached understanding which would allow Israel to take part of the program. According to the agreed formula, the project would only apply within Israel's pre-1967 border and not in the West Bank. The agreement would include a clause stating Israel's objection to the guidelines.
Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem during the 1967 Mideast War and has held this territory ever since, despite international criticism.