Jordan's King Hussein arrived here today on a state visit and talks with President Hosni Mubarak to work out a Jordanian-Palestinian-Egyptian approach toward reviving the long stalled Middle East peace process.
The Jordanian monarch is the first of the 17 Arab leaders who broke diplomatic relations with Egypt over its 1979 peace treaty with Israel to restore them and return here, marking what Cairo hopes will be the start of its reintegration into the Arab world.
The king arrived here shortly before noon accompanied by Queen Noor and was welcomed by Republican Guardsmen on the spacious, tree-shaded grounds of Qubbah Palace.
Neither Hussein nor Mubarak made any public statement. After lunch the two plunged into the first round of talks at the palace lasting two hours, half of the time without their aides.
After the first meeting, Mubarak's chief foreign affairs adviser, Osama Baz, said they had discussed "an acceptable formula" to serve as a basis for a comprehensive settlement of the Palestinian issue.
He said the two leaders hoped to involve the Palestine Liberation Organization in the search for a unified Arab position and he called on Syria to join the process as well.
"Let's not forget Syria still has land occupied by Israel and its participation in the peace process is vital," he said.
The king was presumed to have briefed Mubarak during their first meeting on the outcome of the Palestine National Congress, the PLO's "parliament in exile," which has just finished a session in the Jordanian capital.
The congress reaffirmed the leadership of Chairman Yasser Arafat, vehemently opposed by Syrian President Hafez Assad and several pro-Syrian Palestinian groups. It also gave Arafat a mandate to explore a Palestinian-Jordanian position on possible peace talks with Israel and to improve the organization's relations with Egypt and Syria.
There had been some speculation that Arafat might show up here with the king but there was no sign of him or indication that he might join Mubarak and Hussein in their talks later.
Baz said Egypt wanted to reach a common Arab position on negotiations with Israel like the one that existed at the time of the unsuccessful 1973 Geneva conference.
"We are now beginning from where we ended to revive this position, and we are ready for other parties to join in," he said.
If the Arabs achieved a common stand, he added, they could approach other interested parties such as the United States and the Soviet Union from "a position of strength." In fact, there are indications that even Egypt and Jordan have yet to agree fully on a joint approach.
King Hussein has been pushing hard for another Geneva-style international conference in which both the Soviet Union and the United States would participate along with Syria, the PLO and Israel.
Mubarak, on the other hand, is known to believe that such a conference, already rejected by Washington and Tel Aviv, is not likely to accomplish much unless all parties agree to sit at the table.
"Otherwise, with whom shall we sit down?" he asked recently in an interview with an Arab newspaper.
The king is expected to try to persuade Mubarak during their three days of talks here that holding such a conference is now the best way to proceed in an effort to get around what he views as a total U.S. refusal to apply any pressure on Israel to modify its policies and bring it to the negotiating table.
What kind of a compromise the two may reach on this issue remains to be seen.
Hussein has brought a large delegation headed by his prime minister, Ahmad Obeidat, which is to hold talks with an Egyptian delegation led by Prime Minister Kamal Hassan Ali.