A United Nations envoy is urging Cyprus and Turkey to avoid any escalation of tensions in a row over Ankara's planned gas search in waters where the Cypriot government has already licensed companies to drill.

Espen Barth Eide on Wednesday urged all sides to "act responsibly" and to "create an understanding" about potential gas reserves off the ethnically divided island.

Cyprus' Greek Cypriot president on Tuesday suspended reunification talks, accusing Turkey of violating the EU member country's sovereign rights and international law.

Cyprus was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Turkey doesn't recognize Cyprus as a state and opposes its offshore energy search.

Eide said he would continue contacts with both the internationally recognized Greek Cypriots and the breakaway Turkish Cypriots.