In a call Friday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, President Barack Obama praised “positive momentum” in working to open up the Gaza Strip.

Israel last month agreed to ease its blockade of the Hamas-controlled small strip of land following the May 31 flotilla incident that sparked criticism of the Jewish state. 

“The president noted the positive momentum generated by the recent improvements on the ground in Gaza and in the West Bank, the restraint shown by both sides in recent months, and progress in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian proximity talks,” said a White House readout of the call. 

Despite the positive tones from the White House, peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians have not taken place for more than a year, and the flotilla incident was viewed as a setback to resuming negotiations. 

Members of Congress from both parties expressed their support for Israel following the incident, which left nine activists onboard dead and several Israeli soldiers injured. Some, though, pressed Obama to end the blockade. 

The White House has called the blockade an unsustainable solution, though it has recognized that Israel put it in place to stop the flow of weapons to Hamas, which has sworn to Israel’s destruction. 

Obama said that Middle East envoy George Mitchell would “travel to the region soon” and meet with Abbas to “build momentum” on the blockade and the stalled peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.