Pro-Western Gulf Arab monarchies have agreed to an Iranian offer to launch talks on a possible free trade pact, the secretary general of their oil-rich bloc has said.

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) foreign ministers in the Saudi Red Sea city of Jeddah discussed a letter from their Iranian counterpart “regarding Iran’s readiness to reach a free trade agreement with GCC member states,” Abdurrahman al-Attiyah states.

Attiyah says that in light of the letter from Iran’s Manouchehr Mottaki, “it was agreed to express the readiness of GCC states to engage in negotiations to conclude an agreement to set up a free trade zone” with the Islamic republic.

He says the issue would be referred to the financial and economic cooperation committee of the GCC, which groups Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

A statement issued after the meeting called for a peaceful resolution of Iran’s stand-off with the west over its controversial nuclear programme, and urged Tehran to cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).