The Address | Benghazi – Libya
TRIPOLI – The acting United Nations envoy to Libya, Stephanie Williams, has warned of the huge risk of a miscalculation triggering direct confrontation between rival foreign powers in Libya as weapons and mercenaries continue to pour into the war-torn country.
Williams told the Financial Times that an “alphabet soup” of foreign states were violating an international arms embargo as forces mobilized around the city of Sirte, which the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) threatened to attack with the help of Turkey.
“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 risk of this turning into a pure proxy war is very serious indeed. The overall picture is one of continuing foreign intervention.”
Williams said the risk of a miscalculation around Sirte was “huge — you never know what could trigger a wider conflagration”.
The appetite among Libyan factions for a political process to end the conflict had increased, Ms Williams said, but there was no agreement on how to demobilize Sirte.
Foreign intervention was complicating the peace efforts, she added. “The Libyans are increasingly losing their voice in all of this . . . decisions are being taken on their behalf in foreign capitals,” she said.
“A compromise is within reach but we need support and the Libyans need support. It’s not practical for any one side or their backers to take a zero-sum approach.”