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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani makes an address during a ceremony marking the 25th death anniversary of Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, at his shrine just outside Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, June 3, 2014. Iran's moderate president said Tuesday that his administration will defend the Islamic Republic's nuclear rights and work to end international sanctions that have devastated its economy. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

ISTANBUL (AP) — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is meeting with Turkish officials, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the first official Iranian presidential visit to Turkey since 1996.

Rouhani's meetings in Ankara come just before the start of direct talks in Geneva between Iran and the U.S on the Iranian nuclear program.

Rouhani is expected to sign agreements with Turkey aimed at improving ties that have been strained over the war in Syria, where Iran backs the government and Turkey the rebels. Rouhani will also meet with Turkish President Abdullah Gul.

Iran is both an important trading partner for Turkey and a rival for influence in the region. Turkey, anticipating that the nuclear talks lead to a further easing of sanctions on Iran, is looking to boost energy cooperation.