US Middle East envoy George Mitchell called on Thursday for an opening of trade crossings into the Gaza Strip with the involvement of the Western-backed Palestinian Authority.
Following talks in Ramallah with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is at odds with Gaza's ruling Islamist movement Hamas, Mitchell told reporters: "To be successful in preventing the illicit traffic of arms into Gaza there must be a mechanism to allow the flow of legal goods, and that should be with the participation of the Palestinian Authority."
Israel has imposed a tight blockade on the coastal enclave, saying it needs to prevent Hamas acquiring arms.
Earlier Thursday, Mithell met with IDF Chief of Staff LT.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, who briefed the American envoy on Israel's military activity in the West Bank.
On Wednesday Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Mitchell during their meeting in Jerusalem that opening the Gaza crossings was a decision tied in with any progress made in kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit's case.
Olmert stressed that until actual headway in Shalit's case was made, the crossings would remain open for humanitarian aid transports only.
The future opening of the crossings, added Olmert, also depends on the Gaza ceasefire proving stable and the cessation of all terror activities.