Greek Cypriot representatives had postponed the second round of peace talks following a dispute over a pilgrimage to an orthodox church in the Turkish Cypriot north, an official said on Wednesday.
The leaders of the two rival communities were scheduled to start the new round of negotiations on Thursday after a one-month summer break.
George Iacovou, a senior aide to President Demetris Christofias, the Greek Cypriot leader, said the dispute had overshadowed the upcoming talks and therefore it would be better to postpone the meeting.
About 650 Greek Cypriot pilgrims who were scheduled to cross into northern Cyprus returned on Wednesday, citing delays by Turkish Cypriot authorities in permitting them to enter.
Iacovou said he was in constant contact with Christofias, who is now in Paris for a visit, and he was fully briefed about the postponement.
The semi-official Cyprus News Agency quoted Christofias as saying that negotiations are continuing, but he warned of difficulties ahead.
“As things stand at present, I believe we will face serious — not to say very serious — difficulties which I hope we will overcome,” he said after a lunch with his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy.
According to Iacovou, Christofias plans to meet UN envoy for Cyprus Alexander Downer on Friday to assess the latest developments.
Downer has also been informed about the postponement, Iacovou added.
The Turkish Cypriot north and the Greek Cypriot south have been engaged in UN-led comprehensive negotiations since last September in a renewed effort to reunify the eastern Mediterranean island.
Cyprus has been split since the Turkish military intervened and occupied the island’s north following a coup by a group of Greek officers in 1974. The conflict is harming Turkey’s bid to join the European Union, where Greek Cypriots represent the island in the bloc.