After five years of strained relations, the Iran-South Africa Joint Economic Commission met in Pretoria with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attending.

Zarif arrived in Johannesburg as the head of a delegation. This is Zarif’s second visit to a foreign country; earlier he had travelled to Iraq.

The Joint Economic Commission meeting comes at a time when economic relations between the two countries have been severely damaged due to international sanctions, with South Africa having completely stopped importing oil from Iran.

Iranian imports from South Africa reportedly fell by 40.7 percent in 2012 and have reached $38 million.

Iranian exports to South Africa fell 63 percent in 2012 and are now about one billion dollars.

In the past five years, South Africa has not been keen on pursuing a meeting of the commission.

The Iranian foreign minister will meet with the South African president and then travel to Turkey to meet with Turkish President Abdullah Gul.