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Transitions In the Middle East

People with Egyptian, Palestinian and Arab flags gather during a demonstration at Tahrir Square in Cairo, May 13, 2011.

"We are committed to the future of this region where we have so many key interests."

It is a moment of great challenge and great opportunity in many countries in North Africa and the Middle East. Uprisings across the region, said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have exposed a number of myths: the myth that governments can hold on to power without responding to their people's aspirations or respecting their rights; the myth that the only way to produce change in the region is through violence and conflict; and the most pernicious of all, the myth that Arabs do not share universal human aspirations for freedom, dignity, and opportunity.

The recent protests and upheavals across the region have the potential to bring about more democratic, economically successful and accountable governments. But the risk remains that these democratic transitions will be hijacked by undemocratic forces, giving rise to new autocracies.

The United States is committed to supporting and empowering the reformist voices. As it offers support and encouragement to governments and people pursuing political change, the U.S. is also looking to bolster the economic progress that can help make that change sustainable over time. That's why the U.S. has mobilized the Overseas Private Investment Corporation to provide up to $2 billion in financial support for private-sector investments in the Middle East and North Africa. And why we launched the U.S.-North Africa Partnership for Economic Opportunity, linked to Partners for a New Beginning, to foster new forms of private sector cooperation between American and North African young entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and diaspora business leaders.

The U.S. is also keeping a close eye on religious minorities, including Christians, particularly in light of the recent Church burnings in Egypt. Minorities, who are often even more vulnerable to violence and abuse during such tumultuous times, deserve to have their religious freedoms protected. The U.S. is also concerned with ensuring that democratic change, where it comes, is inclusive – that means that women have an equal voice at the bargaining table and minorities are fairly represented.

"We are committed to the future of this region where we have so many key interests," said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner. "The United States looks forward to the day when all the citizens of the region, men and women of all faiths, are able to have their voices heard, their rights respected, and their aspirations met."