JERUSALEM (JTA) — George Mitchell, U.S. special envoy to the Middle East, called for Gaza border crossings to be opened.
Mitchell said during a news conference Thursday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that a mechanism to allow the free flow of legal goods and keep out arms should be put in place in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority.
On Wednesday, Ehud Olmert said that Israel’s opening of border crossings into Gaza are linked to progress in the case of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
The Israeli prime minister told Mitchell, who is in the region this week to push for Israeli-Palestinian peace, that the crossings will be open for humanitarian aid only until the issue is solved.
Mitchell said following his meeting with Olmert that converting the Gaza lull into a permanent cease-fire was "of critical importance."
Israeli President Shimon Peres, after meeting earlier with Mitchell, said that "I assure you, there is no contradiction between the stances of the United States and Israel. Both the United States and Israel want peace and believe that we must fight against terror, chiefly Hamas and Iran. We must fight terrorism and simultaneously advance peace. Israel will not allow Hamas to destroy the chances for peace, and we will work to cultivate the goodwill that is necessary to conclude a peace agreement with the Palestinians."