Prime Ministers Zaid Rifai of Jordan and Abdul Rauf Qasim of Syria are to meet Monday in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in an effort to end differences between their countries and clear the way for a long-delayed Arab summit conference.
Jordan hopes that the meeting, arranged by an Arab committee headed by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, will begin a process of Jordanian-Syrian reconciliation that would in turn contribute to settling wider Arab differences, according to a Jordanian official who asked not to be identified.
"We hope that by bringing the Syrians to an understanding of our positions, we could be helping, not only toward a Jordanian-Syrian reconciliation, but toward improvement in relations among all the parties in the area," the official said.
The timing of the meeting, which comes as King Hussein prepares to meet with President Reagan in Washington late this month, is seen here as an important signal to Washington that Jordan's proposal for an international Middle East peace conference including Syria and the Soviet Union is workable.
Saudi Arabia's chief aim is to end Arab squabbling so that the Arab summit meeting that was to have been held in Riyadh in 1983 finally can be held. Jordan expects, in addition, that if it and Syria are reconciled, Saudi Arabia would have to support Jordan's stand on Middle East peace more actively.
"There would be no more pretexts for the Saudis not to back up more strongly what we believe in," the official said, reflecting longstanding irritation on the part of many Jordanian officials at Saudi reluctance to support Jordanian policies openly for fear of ruining Saudi-Syrian relations.
Rifai, who long has favored strong Jordanian-Syrian ties, will discuss with Qasim matters "basic" to disagreement between the two countries, the official said.
Syria and Jordan are divided over the war between Iran and Iraq, efforts to get Middle East peace talks started, and the split within the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Syria supports Iran in the war, while Jordan has strongly backed Iraq, Syria's longtime political foe.
Syria strongly opposes Hussein's joint efforts with PLO leader Yasser Arafat seeking ways to start the Middle East peace process.
Jordan's support for Arafat's mainstream PLO against Syrian-backed hard-line factions has exacerbated tensions.
[Arafat arrived in Algiers Sunday, and Arab sources said he would meet with Nayef Hawatmeh, head of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and George Habash, head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Reuter reported. The talks would be the first among them since 1982.]