I thank the Ceann Comhairle's office for allowing this Topical Issue to be put on the agenda. I thank the Minister, Deputy Charles Flanagan, for being here to deal with it. As he knows, the civil war in Syria has been raging for five years. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and millions of people have been displaced.
As usual in war, the weakest and most vulnerable people pay the heaviest price. In particular, children have paid a heavy toll. The vast numbers of children who have been killed and maimed in Syria are truly shocking. This conflict probably rivals anything in the history of human conflict in its viciousness and the extraordinary losses incurred by civilian populations.
As the Minister is aware, Aleppo has become probably the most tragic of all flashpoints in the Syrian civil war. Absolute horror is unfolding at present. Approximately 250,000 people are trapped in Aleppo. The world cannot simply ignore the plight of these people.
The intervention of Russia over a year ago has worsened the situation rather than improved it. I believe Russia has a role to play in helping to improve the situation. Unfortunately, however, it seems that in recent weeks Russia has contributed to some horrific instances and possible war crimes instead. No matter how limited our clout on the international scene, we cannot, as a country, simply stand by and do nothing. I welcome the efforts of the Minister to call in the Russian ambassador to discuss the situation. We need to take a zero-tolerance approach in future to countries that carry out such atrocities, no matter where they are. I was in contact with the Minister in 2014 when Gaza was being bombarded by Israel. In future we need to consider the possible expulsion of diplomats from countries involved in such atrocities to send a signal to the world of our protestations. Our power to change things may be limited but we need to do what we can. No matter who the perpetrators are, we need to adopt a zero-tolerance approach in future.
There is a practical side to the humanitarian situation at present. What are we doing with regard to aid to people in and around Syria to try to alleviate the shocking situation? Of course, there are always demands but is there scope for us to do more on this front? Perhaps this is something the Minister can address. Obviously, the root cause is what needs to be addressed above all else. We could be here for a long time talking about the root cause and going back over the events of the past decade and before. In any event, with regard to the immediate situation, can we do more when it comes to aid?