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ISTANBUL: Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on Sunday pledged to improve ties during a call, both sides said, after tensions mounted over drones and NATO in recent weeks.

Turkey, a NATO member since 1952, has angered Moscow by supplying combat drones to Ukraine that Russia fears could be used by Kiev in its conflict with separatists in two eastern regions.

Putin and Erdogan “exchanged New Year’s greetings and summarised the main results of bilateral cooperation and confirmed the desire to further intensify the mutually beneficial partnership between Russia and Turkey,” the Kremlin said in a statement about the leaders’ phone call.

Erdogan’s office said both sides “discussed steps to improve Turkish-Russian relations” and reiterated their desire to develop cooperation “in all fields”.

Last month, Putin criticised Kiev for deploying Turkish-made drones in its conflict with pro-Moscow separatists.

Ankara says it cannot be blamed for Ukraine’s use of Turkish drones, adding if a state buys Turkish weaponry, it is no longer a Turkish product but belongs to the country which buys it.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu urged Russia last week to drop “one-sided” demands and adopt a more constructive approach in its standoff with Western powers and NATO over Ukraine.

Russia wants NATO to provide Moscow with a binding security guarantee and withdraw its forces to positions they held before a wave of eastward expansion that began after the Soviet Union’s collapse.

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