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Syria Car Bombing Kills 9 in Government-held Town


In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian citizens and security forces gather next to damaged cars at the scene where explosion hit a commercial street, in the costal town of Jableh, Syria, Jan. 5, 2017.

At least nine people were killed Thursday when a car bomb exploded in a coastal town in Syria — the first such explosion reported since a new cease-fire was implemented last week, according to state media.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll in Jableh, a government stronghold, at 14.

The cease-fire in Syria appeared fragile even before this attack as government forces escalated their offensive near the capital, Damascus, and a coalition of rebel groups said they would suspend their participation in preliminary peace talks set for later this month.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who was speaking with new Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in New York on Thursday, spoke to reporters on his way out of the United Nations.

"Unfortunately, the violations continue in Syria. We have this understanding, we are the guarantor of this understanding, that both the regime and opposition signed," Cavusoglu said. "It seems there are different groups from [the] regime side violating the cease-fire. So we need to go to Astana and then to Geneva for the political process.

"But for a political solution and genuine talks, we need to maintain this cessation of hostilities all over Syria," he said.

Talks in Kazakhstan

Negotiations are scheduled to be held in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, although the rebels indicated they were withdrawing because of what they said was the Syrian government's violation of the cease-fire agreement, which was reached on December 30.

The peace talks are being organized by Russia, Iran and Turkey, which also played key roles in negotiating the cease-fire. The countries have yet to comment on the rebels' decision to suspend preliminary talks.

Asked whether sanctions were possible over the cease-fire violations, Cavusoglu said they were considering what sanctions "any sides that violate the deal" should face.

"There should be a sanction, actually. Otherwise, you cannot control this and you cannot go to the political talks in Astana or Geneva," he said.

The cease-fire excludes extremist targets in the war-ravaged country, including rebel-held territory on the outskirts of Damascus.

VOA's Margaret Besheer at the United Nations contributed to this report.