JERUSALEM, Dec. 24 (JTA) — Israel has joined with four other nations in establishing a regional center for research in desalination. The center, which will be built in the Persian Gulf state of Oman and have an operating budget of about $7 million for its first year, will coordinate research in desalination and will oversee the construction of various experimental sites in the Middle East. “This is an important achievement for the peace process,” the Israeli Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “It will offer an opportunity to advance a possible solution for the problem of water in the Middle East.” The head of the Israeli mission in Oman, Oded Ben-Haim, signed the agreement to create the regional center during a ceremony held Monday in the Omani capital of Muscat. As a founding member, Israel will have equal rights in the center’s directorate along with the other signatories to the agreement, the United States, Japan, Korea and Oman. Negotiations for including the European Union as a founding member are nearing completion, according to the Israeli Foreign Ministry. The ministry also said that Mekorot, Israel’s water company, will soon be establishing an installation in Israel for desalinating sea water in commercial quantities.