Vladimir Putin said Wednesday his air force was supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with airstrikes, and insisted that he would work with him as long as his offensive continues. Putin added that he expects Assad to sit down with the Syrian opposition to discuss reaching a political resolution to the four-year-old conflict. Putin’s comments came as he escalated Russian involvement after seeking approval from lawmakers to use military forces abroad at Assad’s request. Russian pilots began carrying out airstrikes early Wednesday near the central city of Homs, which is an area of Syria not under ISIS control. Washington was reportedly informed in advance that the airstrikes were about to take place.