Iran’s oil minister has paid an official visit to ally Venezuela where he met President Nicolas Maduro and discussed ways to “overcome” the effects of sanctions imposed by the United States against both nations, according to officials.

“I received His Excellency Javad Owji, petroleum minister of the sister Islamic Republic of Iran,” Maduro said on Twitter on Monday, calling it “a productive meeting to deepen the ties of brotherhood and cooperation in energy matters”.

State television showed images of the meeting at the presidential palace in the capital, Caracas.

Earlier in the day, Owji met his counterpart, Tareck El Aissami, to discuss “the construction of routes and mechanisms to overcome the unilateral coercive measures imposed by the United States government and allied countries”, according to a statement from the Venezuelan petroleum ministry.

El Aissami, who has been sanctioned by the US for alleged drug trafficking, posted a video on Instagram on Monday of him receiving Owji at his office with a handshake.

Owji’s visit to Venezuela came just weeks after a US delegation held a meeting with Maduro, whose very legitimacy as president Washington disputes, as global oil prices jumped due to the war on Ukraine.

The meeting in March raised questions in the US, as both Democrats and Republicans condemned the prospect of lifting sanctions to import Venezuelan oil amid Washington’s efforts to isolate Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. The blowback prompted the White House later to clarify it was not in “active conversation” with Venezuela on oil imports.

Venezuela sits on the world’s largest proven reserves of crude oil, while Iran is a major oil producer and said last month that production capacity was back to levels before the reimposition of US sanctions in 2018.

Bilateral ties between the two countries were strong under the 1999-2013 reign of socialist leader Hugo Chavez and bolstered further under his successor, Maduro.

Venezuela, under strict US sanctions that it blames for the collapse of its once-flourishing oil industry, has strong allies also in Russia and China.

In 2020, Venezuela received two shiploads of fuel and derivatives from Iran to help address crippling domestic shortages.

Also in the same year, on a visit to Caracas, then-Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said his country would remain on Venezuela’s “side”.