Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Italian Prime Minister Matteo RenziReuters

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on Monday signed business agreements with Iran, later saying those are "just the beginning" for the two countries, Reuters reports.

Renzi was speaking alongside visiting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who was in Rome at the start of his first visit to Europe, which came less than two weeks after the sanctions on Tehran were lifted.

A government source quoted by Reuters said the two countries would sign deals worth up to 17 billion euros ($18.42 billion) during Rouhani's 48-hour stay in Italy.

Rouhani is heading a 120-strong delegation of Iranian business leaders and ministers, and will fly to France on Wednesday following his two-day visit to Italy.

While diplomacy will figure high on his agenda, trade ties are likely to dominate the headlines, with Iran announcing plans to buy more than 160 European planes, mainly from Airbus, on the eve of Rouhani's departure, noted Reuters.

The removal of the sanctions on Iran was made possible after the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that Iran has fulfilled its initial obligations under the terms of the nuclear deal reached with world powers last July.

The removal of the sanctions came despite  a December 2 report from the IAEA which concluded that Iran made a "coordinated" effort to develop nuclear weapons in the past, although the efforts apparently ended at an early stage.

The UN watchdog had also previously released a report which determined that Iran had violated the terms of its nuclear deal with the West by increasing its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 460.2 kilograms.

During his visit to Italy, Rouhani will meet Renzi, Pope Francis and local business leaders. He is set to meet French President Francois Hollande in Paris on Thursday.

The Iranian president had been expected in both countries last November, but canceled the trips following the terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 130 people.

Europe was Iran's largest trading partner before sanctions, with Italy and France seen as particularly close to Tehran, noted Reuters. Both countries sent large trade delegations to Iran last year in the wake of the nuclear accord, laying the groundwork for tie-ups.