Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi held talks with Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar in Benghazi on Monday in a bid to strengthen ties, his ministry said.
The two men "had a long and cordial conversation which relaunched close relations with Italy, in a climate of consolidated trust," the foreign ministry said in a statement.
A source close to Haftar confirmed the talks to AFP without providing further details.
Italy, a key supporter of the UN-backed government of Fayez al-Sarraj in Tripoli, wants to "maintain an active dialogue" with all well-intentioned actors in Libya, Moavero Milanesi said.
"The current political path must be completed, in particular through free and fair elections, held under adequate security conditions," he added, after France pushed for elections before the end of the year.
The ministry said that Haftar "expressed his appreciation for Italy's foreign policy, which Libya can't do without."
"Marshal Haftar added that he was ready to contribute to actively support security, stabilisation and dialogue in the country, for the good of all Libyans," the ministry said, without elaborating.
The Libyan capital has been at the centre of a battle for influence between armed groups since dictator Moamer Kadhafi was driven from power and killed.
Sarraj's Government of National Accord has been unable to form a functioning army or regular security forces and has been forced to rely on militias to keep Tripoli safe.
Militias formed the backbone of the 2011 uprising that toppled Kadhafi.
Since then rival administrations, including Haftar's based in the remote east, and the militias have competed for authority and oil wealth in the North African country.