President Hosni Mubarak, marking the end of Egyptian isolation in the Arab world, arrived in Jordan today two weeks after King Hussein broke ranks to reestablish diplomatic relations with Cairo.
The king greeted the Egyptian leader with a warm embrace as he arrived at the old Amman airport with a large delegation.
After reviewing Jordanian troops as Bedouin bagpipers played "Scotland the Brave," the two held talks at Nedwa Palace.
There was little public turnout for the historic three-day state visit, apparently because the government had little time to mobilize Jordanians. Information Ministry officials said they learned of the Egyptian leader's visit only yesterday.
At a banquet tonight, Hussein described the five-year break in diplomatic relations as a "hiatus" in the "strong national bond" linking the two peoples. He defended his decision to renew ties without waiting for an Arab League decision as "a correction of course, not a violation of any charter or resolution." He appealed to other Arab leaders to follow suit.
"Ours is not a step in the direction of polarization or division but an inauguration of conversion and Arab solidarity. It is not a departure from unanimity but a dissipation of the darkness of disarray" prevailing today in the Arab world, he said.
A spokesman said later that the delegations spent most of their meeting updating bilateral economic and trade agreements that had lapsed during the five years that Jordan had applied the sanctions imposed on Egypt by the Arab League. The league made the move in March 1979 because Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel.
The spokesman, Michael Hamarneh, said the purpose was "mainly to study practical ways" to put the agreement on restoring diplomatic relations into effect.
The surprise state visit seems certain to fuel the controversy already brewing in the divided Arab world over the king's decision, which has stirred Syria and Libya to call for an extension of the Arab League boycott to Jordan.
Despite the king's statements to the contrary, the move has raised speculation that he and Mubarak are laying the groundwork for a new initiative to get the long stalled Middle East peace process moving again.
Syria is said to fear the Jordanian monarch is positioning himself for direct talks with Israel involving only Egypt, the United States and the Palestinians, thus leaving Damascus out of the process once again.
The king has denied this and reiterated his backing for an international peace conference involving the Soviet Union and the United States as well as all other concerned parties, including Syria.
The king has sought to explain his decision to act alone primarily in terms of Arab politics and his desire to break the deadlock within the Arab League over the issue of restoring diplomatic relations with Egypt.
In a speech before his parliament Oct. 1, King Hussein said he made the decision to prevent "further paralysis and disintegration of the Arab body" and tonight he used almost the same words saying he hoped it would "breathe life into the body of the Arab nation" worn down "by division and paralyzed by differences."