Russia is hosting the head of Libya's U.N.-backed government, part of efforts to expand its clout in the fractured country.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met Thursday with Faez Sarraj, the prime minister of the unity government in Tripoli. Lavrov said that Russia, a "good and old friend" of Libya, would like to see it prosperous and united.

Sarraj said Russia could play an important positive role in helping settle the Libyan crisis thanks to its links to various political forces in the country.

Earlier this year, Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter, a military chief who is allied with an eastern-based parliament which is at odds with Sarraj's government in Tripoli, visited a Russian aircraft carrier off Libya's coast and had a video call with the Russian defense minister.