Mr Holbrooke's deputy, Tom Miller, the US Special Co-ordinator for Cyprus, opened the initiative with separate meetings with President Glafcos Clerides, the Greek Cypriot leader, and the Turkish Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash.
A State Department spokesman said that Mr Holbrooke felt it was time to bring the two leaders together "with no set agenda to see if they can have an informal discussion".
Western diplomats, insisting on anonymity, said Mr Holbrooke's main thrust will be to try to arrange the participation of both sides in entry negotiations with the European Union.
Mr Holbrooke, chief architect of the 1995 Bosnia peace accords, sees the prospect of Cyprus joining the EU as a catalyst for the reunification of the island. Cyprus has been unofficially partitioned since Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third in 1974.Reuse content