RAMALLAH, Oct. 19 (Xinhua) -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will present an offer of general elections to rival Hamas movement, a senior official said Wednesday.
Abbas will present the offer to Khaled Mashaal, the Damascus- based leader of the Palestinian Islamic movement, said the official, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization's (PLO) Executive Committee, on condition of anonymity.
The elections have often been seen as the only way to restore unity to the Palestinian territories, mainly the West Bank, where Abbas' Fatah party holds sway, and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Abbas wants the elections to be as soon as possible, preferably at the beginning of next year.
It has become easier to convince Hamas to go to polls now, especially the first stage of a prisoner exchange deal with Israel, the official said.
In the light with the agreement, Israel released the first batch of 477 prisoners on Tuesday in exchange for a soldier Hamas had held in Gaza for five years. Observers believes that this rare swap has increased the Islamic movement's popularity among the Palestinians.
The split between Hamas and Fatah had widened when Hamas routed pro-Abbas forces and took over the Gaza Strip in 2006. In May, Egypt brokered a reconciliation agreement between the two Palestinian movements, but differences on the formation of a unified government blocked the implementation of the deal.