'Solution is possible'

Ban said he is confident the island's two leaders can make a breakthrough in the ongoing peace talks, which in 16 months have only made marginal progress.

"Reaching a mutually acceptable conclusion will require courage, flexibility and vision as well as a spirit of compromise," Ban said as he arrived in Cyprus on Sunday.

"I am under no illusion that the Cyprus problem is easy to solve or about the difficulties that you face. At the same time, I am confident that a solution is possible and within reach," he said.

Cyprus was divided in a Turkish invasion in 1974 triggered by a short-lived Greek-inspired coup. Decades-old attempts to resolve the conflict have failed.

Kofi Annan, Ban's predecessor, travelled to Cyprus eight years ago and urged the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities at the time to seize a "historic opportunity."

But the Greek Cypriots later rejected Annan's reunification blueprint in a referendum, ensuring Cyprus joined the European Union still divided in 2004 despite a Turkish Cypriot referendum approving Annan's plan.

Failure to reach a Cyprus settlement is also proving an obstacle to Turkey's own EU ambitions.

The latest UN-led effort has also struggled to produce tangible results since it was launched amid much optimism in September 2008.

The two sides remain far apart on the core issues of property, security and territorial adjustments.