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Turkey, Iran seek to triple bilateral trade despite differences over Syria

Ankara and Tehran could contribute to stabilizing the Middle East if they can find common ground. More immediately, a bilateral trade deal could triple trade between the two competing powers.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Iranian Vice-President Eshagh Jahangiri shake hands at a press conference.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Iranian Vice-President Eshagh Jahangiri

Despite being on opposite sides of the Syrian war, Turkey and Iran are trying to find common ground in order to both stabilize the region and boost bilateral trade.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the two sides can work together to end sectarian conflict across the region if they can develop a "common perspective."

Russia and Iran have been Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's strongest supporters, providing him with urgently needed military and financial support. Turkey has been Assad's chief regional opponent and is backing rebel groups inside Syria.

Watch video 01:46

Iran is ready for post-sanctions trade

"We may have different views, but we cannot change our history or our geography," Davutoglu said, standing alongside Iranian Vice President Eshagh Jahangiri.

"It is extremely important for Turkey and Iran to develop some common perspectives in order to end our region's fight among brothers, to stop the ethnic and sectarian conflicts," Davutoglu added.

Turkey has close ties to Saudi Arabia, which recently severed diplomatic relations with Iran, and Ankara is also worried about Tehran's growing influence in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.

"We have our differences on some regional issues, but we are determined to manage the differences to reach stability in the region ... Iran and Turkey would both benefit from regional security and stability," Jahangiri said in remarks broadcast live in both Turkey and Iran.

Aiming to triple trade

Now that international sanctions against Iran have been lifted,

the two sides are aiming to more than triple bilateral trade.

"The main obstacle that prevented us from reaching our goal was the sanctions," Davutoglu said. "Being free of those, means we can easily surpass our goal of $30 billion."

The prime minister also wants to see an increase in mutual direct investment.

Watch video 02:55

Germany is ready to resume trade with Iran

Trade between the two nations was $9.7 billion (8.8 billion euros) in 2015, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute. Imports to Iran had plunged during the past year, reducing trade by one-third, from $15 billion.

International sanctions had been imposed against Iran in opposition to Tehran's nuclear program.

Tehran has long insisted that its nuclear program was purely for energy purposes, with no military component, a claim scoffed at by foreign powers, most notably the United States.

A multilateral agreement, led by the Washington, was reached in January, which includes a comprehensive international inspection regime that aims to ensure Iran's nuclear program remains purely commercial.

Turkey has lagged behind other European countries in tapping into Iran's newly freed $400 billion economy.

Turkey mainly sells machinery, vehicles and iron and steel products to Iran, according to Turkey's foreign ministry, while oil and natural gas make up 90 percent of Iranian exports to Turkey.

bik/sms (Reuters, AFP)

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