A U.N. envoy has expressed "deep concern" over a newly-imposed limit on worship in Orthodox Christian churches inside ethnically divided Cyprus' breakaway Turkish Cypriot north.

Espen Barth Eide said he has asked Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci to help "rectify" the new policy that reportedly limits worship in any church to once a year.

Eide, who is mediating ongoing reunification talks, said Thursday that the move runs "directly counter to the bi-communal spirit" that has been built up in recent years.

Cyprus' Christian and Muslim leaders have over the last few years taken great strides in promoting religious freedom, especially in the north where derelict churches have remained unused for decades.

Cyprus was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece.