Jordan's official news agency said yesterday that King Hussein and Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, have reached a "framework for common action" to work toward a settlement of the Palestinian issue.
No details were given, however, and officials in Washington were skeptical that it was the major breakthrough in the Middle East peace process toward which several moderate Arab states have worked during the past few months.
"I don't know what 'a framework' for talks means," said one senior State Department official.
Both Jordan and Egypt have pressed the PLO to accept some variation on U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 as a basis for talks with Israel. The resolution calls, in effect, for Israel to relinquish control of territories it has occupied since 1967 in exchange for peace with its neighbors. Israel has accepted the resolution, although it has questioned some of its implications.
In November Hussein addressed Arafat's Palestine National Council in Amman and called for a joint Palestinian-Jordanian peace initiative on this basis. But the Palestinians have rejected 242 as inadequate since it does not address the question of Palestinian self-determination or the creation of an independent Palestinian state.
Arab frustration over this stalemate is heightened by the sense, expressed by Egyptian officials and others, that the Labor Party's presence in the new unity government in Israel and the rapprochement among Egypt, Jordan and Iraq might open new paths toward peace if the Palestinians could be budged on the issue.
At the same time, Arab states including Saudi Arabia have tried to prod the United States toward new intitiatives in the area. King Fahd carried that message to President Reagan in their meeting yesterday.
Intense talks have been under way between Jordanian and PLO officials since last week, according to Arab diplomats. But Arafat did not arrive in Amman until Sunday.
State Department officials said it would be significant if the "framework" cited meant the PLO has accepted 242. But they said this was unlikely given deep divisions on the question among even the relatively moderate factions of the PLO and the fact that Arafat had arrived in Amman only a day before the announcement