Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat won qualified Soviet support today for a Middle East settlement plan under which a future Palestinian state would enter into a confederation with Jordan.

The Soviet reservations were underscored in a communique in which Arafat's position was said to have been met by "an attitude of understanding" from the Soviet leadership.

Earlier today, Arafat told a news conference that Soviet leader Yuri Andropov and other officials told him that they would agree to anything the Palestinian people accept.

Arafat said Moscow was "in agreement" with a PLO plan under which an "independent Palestinian state would enter into a confederation with Jordan, and that this would be decided by a referendum." He said the "precise wording" on this issue would be contained in a joint Soviet-Palestinian communique.

The communique, distributed by the Soviet news agency Tass, quoted Arafat as saying: "The PLO comes out for the establishment of relations of confederation on the voluntary basis between the independent Palestinian state after its creation and Jordan. The Soviet side showed an attitude of understanding to this position of the PLO leadership."

In Soviet diplomatic parlance, the phrasing suggested a cautious distancing by Moscow from the proposal or, at best, qualified support.

Arafat arrived here Tuesday after talks with Jordan's King Hussein on ways to deal with the Middle East crisis and specifically on the possibility of a Jordanian-Palestinian confederation. President Reagan's Middle East peace proposals call for a Palestinian homeland associated with Jordan.

Diplomatic observers here linked Arafat's sudden visit to reported difficulties he is having with Syrian President Hafez Assad and other radical Arabs, who are said to be critical of the PLO plan.

According to this view, Arafat had sought Soviet mediation with the Syrians so that he could pursue the diplomatic drive.