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TEHRAN – Regional powers Iran and Turkey on Monday expressed a willingness to step up ties, as Ankara’s foreign minister visited.

The neighbours have historically close economic relations but occasionally find themselves on opposite sides of regional conflicts, including in Syria.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi after talks with his counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

The two sides “should be ready to increase their relations from the current level to an overall cooperation,” a statement from Iran’s presidency said.

This should be done “by finalising the roadmap for strengthening collaborations, which is on the agenda of both countries,” it said.

On Twitter, Cavusoglu said he and Raisi “discussed our bilateral relations, including trade, investments and (the) fight against terrorism” as well as the “latest developments in our region”.

They “reaffirmed our mutual will to further develop our relations,” the minister added.

Earlier in the day Cavusoglu and Amir-Abdollahian held a joint press conference after they met for more than an hour.

“Developments in Afghanistan, the necessity of developing stability, security and tranquility in western Asia, the attention brought to the regional policy of the two countries,” were among the topics, Amir-Abdollahian told reporters.

Ankara is building a wall along its eastern border with Iran. One function will be to keep out Afghans trying to use the route to enter Europe.

From Tehran, Cavusoglu travelled to politically and economically fragile Lebanon, where the powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah is backed by Iran. The minister said the two visits were not planned at the same time.

The US administration of President Joe Biden has had rocky relations with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, while Iran is under economically crippling American sanctions imposed after former US president Donald Trump pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

“Unilateral sanctions targeting Iran should be lifted,” Cavusoglu told reporters.

Talks on restoring that 2015 nuclear deal are to resume in Vienna on November 29, after a suspension since June.

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