Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani shake hands after a news conference in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, June 9, 2014. Rouhani is in Turkey for a two-day state visit. (AP Photo)
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ANKARA In a landmark visit to Turkey by Iran's president, the two countries pledged to work together to stop extremism and bloodshed in the Middle East despite deep differences over Syria's civil war.Turkish President Abdullah Gul commended Rouhani on his efforts in opening up Iran to the world since taking office last August.Iran, a Shia theocracy, is the chief backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Sunni-majority Turkey has moved from trying to encourage reform in Syria to overtly supporting the armed opposition.- Iran sees 'turning point' --It was the first trip to Turkey by an Iranian president since former leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made a "working" visit to Istanbul in 2008 . The last official presidential visit from Iran to Turkey was in 1996 by Hashemi Rafsanjani. Iran and Turkey have emerged as competitors for influence across the Middle East -- notably in Iraq and Syria -- as well as in Central Asia and the Caucasus.Both Turkey and Iran face a threat from Kurdish rebels who wish to break away and form their own country.
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