Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan greets members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara, Turkey, February 20, 2018. Photo: Presidential Palace/Handout via Reuters

After sending some mixed messages about just how much space it will give Turkey to cut out territory in Syria, Moscow has come to Ankara’s aid at a critical moment in their fight for the city of Afrin.

Ankara announced on Tuesday that Russia is supporting Turkey’s move to block a deal which would have seen Syrian pro-government forces move into the Kurdish-held northwestern area to help push back against Turkish-led troops.

“The (deployment) was seriously stopped yesterday,” Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan was quoted by Reuters as telling reporters. The decision, he said, was made following a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, during which Erdogan asked for Russian intervention.

Syrian state media had announced on Monday that a pro-government militia would be deployed in Afrin, though Damascus has reportedly yet to comment on the decision.

“Russia has a main role in this issue,” Fawza Youssef, a leading Syrian Kurdish politician was quoted as saying. “They are the ones who agreed with the Turks for this aggression to happen. Either they’d have to stop their agreement with Turkey or get on board,” she added.

Siege on Afrin imminent

In a speech to a parliamentary meeting of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party on Tuesday,  Erdogan said that the country’s army is set to lay siege to Afrin.

“Afrin city center will be besieged in the coming days,” he was reported by Turkey’s Anadolu Agency as saying. “So that the external aid coming to the city and the region gets cut.”

Erdogan defended the operation in his speech, saying Turkey entered Syria’s Afrin region as a last resort “to make the region livable and secure.”

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