A conference in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) is discussing alternative solutions for the future of the Cyprus island and is revisiting the issue in view of "important" local and regional developments.
Near East University in Lefkosa, the capital of the TRNC, is hosting the 2nd International Conference on the Cyprus issue through Wednesday.
Speaking in the opening ceremony of the conference “The Cyprus Issue: The Past, Present, and Future of Cyprus,” Huseyin Gokcekus, a civil engineering professor at the host university, said over fifty distinguished and worldwide prominent academicians along with diplomats, politicians and admirals are attending the conference and presenting their papers.
Gokcekus, also chairing the conference, said the main aim and the significance of the second gathering is to re-visit the subject in view of "important" local and regional developments, discuss alternative solutions for the future of Cyprus issue, as well as the impact of the discovery of hydrocarbons in the eastern Mediterranean region since 2001.
"After fifty years of failed negotiations, we believe the time has come to start thinking alternative options for the future of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus," Gokcekus stressed.
Also speaking at the conference, Irfan Gunsel, the chairman of the board of trustees at Near East University, said the conference will explore the overall role of energy geopolitics in the Mediterranean region with particular reference to Cyprus and other relevant cases.
"The Eastern Mediterranean will soon become the new energy frontier after recent natural gas discoveries [in the region]," Gunsel highlighted.
He said developments in this field could have far reaching geopolitical implications for the Mediterranean and beyond.
"The discovery of the eastern Mediterranean gas resources comes at a time when the world demand for energy is growing rapidly, and many are questioning the reliability of supplies from the Persian Gulf and Russia."
"In response, Western governments are encouraging the diversification of supply to ensure energy security," Gunsel said.
He added that as a result, energy has already had an impact on traditional patterns of cooperation in the region.
Addressing the first session of the conference about dynamics in eastern Mediterranean and future of the TRNC, Huseyin Isiksal, an international relations professor at the Near East University, said the current status quo on the island is "unacceptable" and negative consequences will come up for both the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots when it is prolonged.
Isiksal said hydrocarbon resources could lead to conflict in the region and that fact increases the significance of a solution in Cyprus dispute.
"The failure of negotiation process made it necessary to think ‘outside of the box’ and new alternatives for the solution of the Cyprus issue," Isiksal stressed.
He added that the models of Kosovo, Taiwan, Hong Kong or Monaco could be plan B for the TRNC.
In 1974, following a coup aiming at Cyprus’ annexation by Greece, Ankara had to intervene as a guarantor power. In 1983, the TRNC was established.
The decades since have seen several attempts to resolve the dispute, all ending in failure. The latest one, held with the participation of the guarantor countries -- Turkey, Greece and the U.K. -- ended in 2017 in Switzerland.
In 2004, in twin referendums, the plan of then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan for a solution was accepted by Turkish Cypriots but rejected by Greek Cypriots.
The talks focused on a federal model, based on the political equality of the Turkish and Greek Cypriot sides, but Greek Cypriots’ rejection of such a solution, including the Annan plan, led to the emergence of other models.
In a recent report, current UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also said that "new ideas" may be needed for a settlement on the island.
By Fatih Hafiz Mehmet in Lefkosa, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus