Reuters International

Cyprus' President Nicos Anastasiades speaks during a news conference at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia, Cyprus April 7, 2016. REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou

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ATHENS (Reuters) - Cyprus's president cancelled peace talks scheduled for Friday, his spokesman said, and cut short a visit to Turkey in anger over a perceived protocol breach at a U.N. summit where the rival Turkish Cypriot leader was treated as a head of state.

President Nicos Anastasiades was in Turkey attending a U.N. summit on the migration crisis but refused to attend a banquet for heads of state on Monday evening after Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, who represents breakaway north Cyprus, was also invited.

Implicitly blaming the United Nations for the controversy, Cypriot government spokesman Nikos Christodoulides said there was 'no fertile ground' for Friday's planned meeting with Akinci in Nicosia. Nonetheless, he added, Anastasiades was still committed to the peace process on the ethnically divided island.

The row underscores the sensitivity and complexity of the Cyprus conflict, a decades-old conundrum that generations of diplomats and an army of peacemakers have failed to crack.

The island was split in a Turkish invasion in 1974, triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup. The Greek Cypriots, who represent the whole island in the European Union, are sensitive to any perceived attempt to place them on an equal footing with the breakaway statelet of north Cyprus, which is unrecognised internationally but backed financially and militarily by Turkey.

Anastasiades and Akinci are engaged in reunification talks for Cyprus as leaders of their respective communities.

"The President of the Republic reiterates his decisiveness to continue the dialogue as long as the principle of mutual respect and the will for an acceptable solution are maintained. Without unilateral moves which seek to upgrade the pseudo-state," Christodoulides said in a statement.

It was not immediately clear who invited Akinci to the summit, but his Twitter account showed pictures of him with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.N. special envoy Espen Barth Eide.

Such actions from 'any party - not excluding the U.N. special envoy for the Cyprus problem' undermine the process, Christodoulides said.

The Cyprus conflict is a major obstacle to Turkey joining the European Union because of Ankara's refusal to recognise Cyprus.

(Reporting by Michele Kambas; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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