A spokeman for Tassos Papadopoulos said on Friday that he would be willing to meet Turkish Cypriot leader in the presence of a member of the UN-backed committee investigating the fate of people who disappeared more than 30 years ago.

The spokesman, Georgias Lillikas, said: "Our side has reiterated its commitment for a meeting between the two leaders in the presence of the Committee member so they could lend their support towards solving what is a purely humanitarian issue."

The new representative on the UN committee, Christopher Girod, is expected to take up his duties at the beginning of July.

The issue of missing persons is separate to the ongoing political efforts to end Cyprus's division, but an encounter between the two leaders could help ease relations that have become strained lately.

Historical legacy

Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974 and there are around 1,500 Greek Cypriots still unaccounted for from that period.

Violence broke out between Greek and Turkish Cypriots in 1963 and around 800 Turkish Cypriots went missing between then and 1974.

Many islanders want documented evidence of what happened to their relatives, many of whom were not armed combatants.

The UN committee, created in the aftermath of the 1974 invasion, was recently given the responsibility of overseeing exhumations of suspected mass graves on both sides of the island under the supervision of a British-based forensics team.