Is Libya Finally Ready for Peace?

The Palermo Summit and the Case for Optimism

UN Libya Envoy Ghassan Salame (L) and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in Palermo, November 2018. Giuglielmo Mangiapane / Reuters

Pity Libyans for the pageantry of their international summits. Over the years, at palaces, resorts, and hotels across several continents, the country’s factional leaders have met, shepherded by earnest-looking Western ministers and heads of state. Action plans are laid out and deadlines set. The participants emerge with verbal promises of consensus, a photo op, sometimes even a hug. Meanwhile, back in Libya citizens languish under warring militias, economic misery, and aloof elites. Invariably, after each summit, vows pronounced in remote locales disintegrate on contact with these more proximate realities.

On November 12–13, Italy’s populist government played host to the latest such event, this time in the city of Palermo, Sicily. The meeting occurred in the shadow of intense Italian rivalry with France over Libya. Last May, at a largely unilateral summit in Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron had obtained from four Libyan leaders a verbal commitment to hold general

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