Turkey's Charm Is Longstanding

"Eager for Closer Israel Ties, Turkey Turns Up the Charm" (July 10) gives the impression that the only party supporting closer ties between Turkey and Israel is the military establishment. While the Turkish military certainly has been the driving force in this rapprochement, it was also an outgrowth of the assessment by the foreign policy establishment that Turkey's traditional foreign policy in the Mideast is self-defeating.

On the other hand, the article fails to mention that Turks and Jews have a shared history of more than 500 years, when the Ottoman Empire provided safe haven to Jews persecuted during the Spanish Inquisition and later by Nazi Germany. There are thousands of Jews living in Turkey today as citizens of Turkey, and anti-semitism is nonexistent. Only at the fringes of Turkish society, among fundamentalist Islamists, are anti-Israel feelings harbored. For the average Turk, what really matters is who is standing by Turkey's side today.

Relations between Israel and Turkey extend far beyond military cooperation. Tens of thousands of tourists from Israel visit Turkey each year. Trade has tripled over the last few years following the signing of a free trade agreement. And cooperation between universities and scientists is at a record high. This will further bring the two closest US allies in the region together, not only serving their own crucial interests, but the national security interests of the US in the eastern Mediterranean and the Mideast as well.

Guler Koknar

Washington, D.C.

Executive Director, Assembly of Turkish American Associations

Abortion and UN dues

Regarding the opinion article "Abortion and UN Dues" (July 8): Ruth Wedgewood highlights the problems caused by imposing abortion politics on foreign policy, but misses the most important point.

Legislation to repay dues owed by the US to the UN has been derailed by the inclusion of an irrelevant and odious provision related to family planning funds. Ms. Wedgwood asserts that this isn't as bad as some family planning groups claim because very little of US dues to the UN are used for family planning. Unfortunately, she fails to mention that the legislation applies to all US aid for family planning overseas - not just to our payments to the UN.

The legislation would prohibit US family planning funds from going to any foreign nongovernmental organization (NGO) or multilateral agency that either performs legal abortions or takes any public position on the issue of abortion. Supporters of this legislation insist that it bans not just direct lobbying on abortion but even forbids the sponsoring of any conferences or workshops about abortion laws. The legislation would also ban preparing, printing, or distributing written materials or making any public statement about flaws in abortion laws. Finally, it applies not just to what these groups do with US funds; it limits what they do with other, privately raised funding.

It's already illegal under current law to use US funds to perform abortion or to lobby for abortion, so the proposed legislation clearly has other intents. This legislation is a direct assault on the right of private organizations to participate in a public debate within their own countries, even using their own money.

Standing up for the rights of private citizens to organize and participate in the democratic process (including the right to free speech) is as important a foreign policy goal as any other. We agree that the US must fully fund its foreign policy obligations, including our UN dues. But even Wedgwood could agree that we must not fund the UN at the cost of free speech around the world.

Peter H. Kostmayer

Washington, D.C.

Executive Director, Zero Population Growth

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