Nicosia (AFP) - A round of UN-brokered peace talks between the rival leaders on divided Cyprus broke up in acrimony on Thursday over a 1950 referendum, the Turkish Cypriot leader said.
Tensions have soared over the approval by the Greek Cypriot parliament in the south of the divided island for schools to mark the 1950 referendum on Enosis, or union with Greece.
Mustafa Akinci said that when the issue came up of cancelling the decision to mark the 1950 referendum, his Greek Cypriot counterpart Nicos Anastasiades said there "was nothing else to say, slammed the door and left."
"At that point there was nothing more to do as this meeting needs to be conducted in an atmosphere of respect so we also left the meeting," he told reporters.
But Anastasiades expressed confusion over the situation.
Akinci's "withdrawal was unwarranted and without cause or reason", he said on television, adding that UN envoy Espen Barth Eide, chairing the meeting, was also "unaware of what happened".
The 1950 referendum -- before Cyprus won independence from colonial ruler Britain -- overwhelmingly approved Enosis but had no legal value.
The schools legislation, sponsored by the far-right ELAM party, essentially calls for secondary school pupils to mark the referendum anniversary by learning about the event and reading leaflets dedicated to understanding the Enosis cause.
In a letter to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday, Akinci warned that the move would cause "great damage" to the peace process.
The two sides had in recent weeks been engaged in fragile peace talks that observers have seen as the best chance in years to reunify the island.
In January, the UN hosted talks in Geneva bringing both sides together for the first time with the three "guarantor powers" of Britain, Greece and Turkey.
Much of the progress until now has been based on the strong personal rapport between Anastasiades and Akinci, leader of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus who was born in Limassol which is now in the south.
"The Greek (Cypriot) leader has acted from time to time hotheadedly," said Akinci.
"In the past we tolerated it until the last drop. It was not possible to tolerate this now," he added. "This is a way to behave in a meeting."
The UN envoy was due to make a statement later in the day.
The eastern Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded the northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking Enosis.