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(L-R) Prime Minister of Australia Tony Abbott shakes hands with Prime Minister of Turkey Ahmet Davutoglu during a bilateral meeting at the G20 Summit on Nov. 16, 2014 in Brisbane, Australia. Next year's summit is set to be held in Istanbul.

- Getty Images

WASHINGTON — 2014 was supposed to be a triumphant year, with the first ever election of a popularly elected president and renewed attention on Turkey’s strategic importance for a Middle East in turmoil.

Unfortunately, the rollercoaster of conflict throughout the region has only exacerbated myriad internal tensions that have further polarized Turkish society and its international friends.

Last year’s Gezi Park protests; allegations of corruption that led to crackdowns, including banning Twitter temporarily; more tensions with the Kurds; attacks on US sailors in Istanbul; and, most recently, President Erdogan’s public claim that Muslims first discovered America, have left the West scratching its head. Is this the “new” Turkey its leadership promised?

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Egyptian protesters shout slogans on Abdel Moneim Riad Square in the capital Cairo on December 5, 2014, during a demonstration against a court's decision to drop a murder charge against ousted president Hosni Mubarak.

- AFP/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The mass sentencing to death of 188 people in Egypt, following the decision to dismiss the case against former Egyptian President Mubarak for his part in the deaths of hundreds of protestors in 2011, are the latest blows to the rule of law in Egypt.

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Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto delivers a speech during the presentation of the programme 'Nuevo Guerrero' (New Guerrero) in Acapulco, Guerrero State, Mexico, on Dec. 4, 2014. Mexico's embattled President Pena Nieto visited violence-plagued Guerrero state on Thursday for the first time since a security crisis erupted over the apparent massacre of dozens of students in the city of Iguala on Sept. 26.

- AFP/Getty Images

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — Mexican poet Javier Sicilia, whose son and six others were killed by paid assassins, famously stated: “I don’t know where the state ends and organized crime begins.”

The disappearance and presumed murder of 43 college students in the town of Iguala, Guerrero on Sept. 26 – and the subsequent discovery of multiple mass graves – confirm Sicilia’s observation.

This massacre is one of more than two dozen reported in Mexico since the 1960s. There was the infamous Tlatelolco Massacre in 1968; the disappearance of approximately 1,200 during the Dirty War in the 1970s; and the deaths and disappearances of more than 100,00 people since the Narco-War began in 2006.

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Thick smoke rises from the Syrian town of Kobani as Turkish soldiers stand guarded on the Turkish side of the border during fighting between Islamic State militants and Kurdish People's Protection Unit (YPG) forces.

- Getty Images

CAIRO — As the world unites in its determination to defeat the Islamic State (IS), we must all acknowledge that to complete this task fully and ensure extremists like this are never able to pose such a threat, bombs, bullets and boots are only a small part of what is actually needed.

The CIA estimates that IS has as many as 32,000 fighters, and that number is growing. One Iraqi expert even estimates the figure to be greater than 50,000.

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In this photo taken on Nov. 7, 2013, Indian mother Suman Chandel holds her new born baby, hours after delivery at a clinic in Jhiri, in central Madhya Pradesh. India has long had a dismal record of deaths from preventable illness.

- AFP/Getty Images

WHITEHOUSE STATION, New Jersey — In several recent and high-profile speeches, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called on India’s citizens to recognize the important link between his country’s development and the current status of girls and women.

He noted that India cannot move forward as long as its girls and women are left behind; that India will not complete its journey to becoming a global power if its girls and women remain powerless. And he emphasized that one of the most distressing problems facing girls and women is maternal mortality.

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A Ukrainian woman shows her t-shirt with a traditional Ukrainian symbol as she casts her ballot at a polling station in the Ukrainian Consulate in St. Petersburg on October 26, 2014.

- AFP/Getty Images

KYIV, Ukraine —In the Millennium Development Declaration, signed by 189 countries, Ukraine declared that by 2015 women’s representation in parliament would reach 30 percent. The country accepted the obligation to create favorable conditions for that development.

It appears that Ukraine will not achieve this goal.

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NEW YORK — It was a proud moment for our family. Our firstborn son was coming home from his first semester at college in Chicago. He had made it through midterms and finals, through an array of friendships and experiences in a new city, the one where his immigrant mom was raised.

To save money, we bought our son an Amtrak ticket. It was the first time he would travel alone by land and the first time on a long train ride. It would be about a 20-hour trip. Painful for his back, and as it turns out, painful for his soul.

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US Secretary of State John Kerry delivers a statement in Vienna on the status of negotiations over Iran's nuclear program before he leaves Vienna on Nov. 24, 2014. Kerry defended extending a deadline for a deal with Iran, saying "real and substantial progress" was made during talks in Vienna and calling on US lawmakers not to impose new sanctions on Tehran.

- AFP/Getty Images

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island — The international nuclear negotiations with Iran are close enough to succeed so the talks are being extended to next year. The new deadlines are March for a political agreement and June for the full final signatures.

The deal will mean Iran agrees to make abundantly verifiable the entirely peaceful character of its civilian nuclear energy program and thereby cancel out Western suspicions that Iran’s ambition is for a weapon.

An accord would constitute the first truly good news out of the Middle East in a long while. If we peacefully settle this dispute it would mean an historic opportunity to get policy right in that area of the world.

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US President Barack Obama meets with members of Congress on foreign policy on July 31, 2014 in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, DC. At left is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV.

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DENVER — The United States and other members of the P5+1 have agreed to extend the deadline for reaching a nuclear deal with Iran by several months. While administration officials, including Secretary John Kerry, have indicated progress in the most recent round of discussions, considerable space remains between the positions of the two sides.

However, Congress and American public should be wary of the talks’ extension. This administration is eager for an agreement it could tout as a signature foreign policy achievement. 

And for good reason. Its record on foreign policy is marked more by failure than success, especially on conflict-related issues. The lack of progress on so many pressing issues raises doubts about the administration’s competence and judgment to reach a deal with Iran – a state with longstanding, venomous animosity toward the US and our Mideast allies, a record of promoting terrorism against the US and those allies, and a history of perfidy on its nuclear weapons program.

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Indian sex workers hold placards as they participate in a rally at the Sonagachi area of Kolkata on Nov. 8, 2014. Hundreds of sex workers with their children and family members participated in the rally to demand better legal protection of sex workers, claiming that better laws will reduce human trafficking and exploitation.

- AFP/Getty Images

TURIN, Italy — Over the last few weeks, two territories thousands of miles apart made a similar commitment to gender equality. Northern Ireland became the first part of the United Kingdom, and Canada the first country outside of Europe, to vote in favor of a bill that recognizes the gender dimension of the commercial sex trade.

In both cases, the selling of sex will be decriminalized. Exiting services and support will be provided to those in prostitution, and the focus will move to pimps, brothel-keepers and buyers – those who create the demand that fuels sex trafficking. The approach is known as the “Nordic Model,” initially established by Sweden in 1999 and later adopted by Norway and Iceland.

Today, Ireland and France are considering similar approaches, while the European Union and the Council of Europe both recommended that other countries follow suit.

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