NICOSIA (Reuters) - Rival leaders of ethnically-split Cyprus agreed on Wednesday to try to speed up the pace of slow-moving peace talks to resolve outstanding issues in the decades-old conflict, a U.N. official said.
Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders launched a fresh round of peace talks in February to end more than 40 years of division but have multiple disagreements to resolve, from future governance to territory handovers.
Cyprus was split in a Turkish invasion in 1974 prompted by a brief Greek-inspired coup, but the seeds of division were sown a decade earlier when a power-sharing government crumbled amid violence.
The latest talks, which had until now focused on submitting proposals, would now move into "structured negotiations", United Nations envoy Espen Barth Eide said.
"They (the leaders) have instructed their negotiators to enter into active negotiations with a view to bridging the gap through real negotiation on unresolved core issues," said Eide, a former Norwegian foreign minister appointed U.N. special adviser for Cyprus last month.
The process would involve placing all unresolved differences on the table to be addressed in a "negotiating format", Eide told reporters after meeting Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu at a U.N. compound straddling a buffer zone in Nicosia, the island's capital.
The United Nations would be ready to assist in coming up with ideas to bridge any gaps. There were, Eide said, "clear differences of opinion" on some issues.
Turkish Cypriots run a breakaway administration in northern Cyprus, buffered by thousands of mainland Turkish troops, while the southern Greek Cypriot-populated area is run by an internationally-recognized government representing the whole island in the European Union.
Anastasiades and Eroglu agreed to increase the pace of meetings to at least twice a month, Eide said.
(Reporting by Michele Kambas; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)