U.N. says big risk of regional war in Libya

Stephanie Williams, the deputy head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya for political affairs, said there is a "huge risk" of direct confrontation between rival foreign powers in Libya, the Financial Times reported on Monday.

Williams said the chances of a miscalculation around the rebel-held Mediterranean city of Sirte were "huge", according to the Financial Times. "You never know what could trigger a wider conflagration,” she said.

“The risk of this turning into a pure proxy war is very serious indeed. The overall picture is one of continuing foreign intervention,” Williams said.

Several countries continue to send weapons and mercenaries to Libya, violating a U.N. arms embargo on the country, as rival forces mobilise around Sirte, which is the gateway to Libya’s main oil terminals.

“There has been no effort to stop the influx of mercenaries or weapons, so what’s clear is that there’s complete international impunity, which is matched by impunity on the ground,” Williams said.

The Turkish-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) says it intends to recapture Sirte from rebel General Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), which is supported by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia. Egypt has threatened a direct military intervention if the GNA does so.

A new frontline has been drawn between Misrata and Sirte after the GNA recently took most of the territory held by the LNA in northwest Libya, ending Haftar’s 14-month campaign to seize the capital Tripoli.