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Turkey widening its rift with the U.S.

Turkish foreign minister Cavusoglu at a press conference
Turkish Foreign Affairs minister Mevlut Cavusoglu at a press conference in Istanbul in January 2018. Photo: Yasin Akgul / AFP / Getty Images)

Turkey helped create ISIS by providing weapons, money and logistics to jihadis beginning in 2014. The “jihadi highway” from Sanliurfa in Turkey to Raqqa in Syria was a project of Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency. Turkish journalists who reported on the agency's involvement were charged with “supporting terrorism” and locked up.

Yet in a New York Times op-ed Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu disparages Syrian Kurdish fighters (the YPG) as a terror group, despite acknowledging the Islamic State as a "common enemy." Not only is the group not on the State Department’s Foreign Terrorist Organizations list, it has fought the Islamic State alongside 2,000 U.S. Special Forces and lost roughly 650 of its members while liberating Raqqa. The YPG is America’s best ally in Syria.

Unlike Turkey, which is increasingly Islamist, Kurds are secular and staunchly pro-American. Kurdish administration in Syria is a model of grass-roots democracy, environmental sustainability and women’s empowerment.

In contrast, Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party functions like a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Erdogan recently called working women “half people” who are “deficient.”

Cavusoglu accuses the U.S. of undermining NATO through its support of the YPG. It is Turkey that has betrayed the alliance by, for example, purchasing S-400 missiles from Russia.

The bottom line: Turkey is hostile to democracy and human rights, with little freedom of expression and more imprisoned journalists than any other country. If Turkey applied to join NATO today, it likely would not qualify for membership.

David L. Phillips is the director of Columbia University’s Program on Peace-building and Rights and the author of "An Uncertain Ally: Turkey Under Erdogan’s Dictatorship."

Axios 8 hours ago
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North Korea says it is stopping nuclear and missile testing

Kim Jong-un sits at a desk.
Kim Jong-un. Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has announced the country will stop conducting nuclear tests and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles starting April 21, and shut down a nuclear test site in the north side of the country, through a broadcast on the state news agency KCNA reports, and President Trump announced in a tweet, later adding quotes from the message.

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State Department report cuts references to Israeli "occupation"

A Palestinian protester at the Gaza-Israel border
A Palestinian demonstrator at a protest today near the Gaza-Israel border. Photo: Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The State Department dropped almost all uses of the term "occupation" from its latest annual report on the human rights situation in Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Between the lines: This is a significant change, because the public language used by the State Department usually communicates a policy. The U.N., the E.U., Russia, China and almost all the countries in the world see the Israeli control of the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights since 1967 as "military occupation." But Israel doesn't, and now the U.S. might not see it that way either.