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

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