Jordan and Syria moved another step closer to settling their longstanding differences today when Jordanian Prime Minister Zaid Rifai began an official visit to Damascus with a call for a "new phase in Arab relations."

The changed tenor in relations between the two countries, which had massed troops on their respective borders as recently as four years ago, became apparent when Rifai invited Syrian President Hafez Assad to visit Jordan, which Rifai described as Assad's "second homeland."

Syrian television said the two discussed bilateral relations and the situation in the Middle East area, but it did not elaborate.

Rifai's trip to Damascus is expected to be followed soon by a meeting between Assad and Jordan's King Hussein to give their official blessing to the rapprochement between the two countries, which has been carried out under the auspices of a Saudi Arabian mediation effort.

On Sunday, Hussein released a statement that contained an extraordinary admission that elements of the fundamentalist Moslem Brotherhood living in Jordan had helped stir up unrest in Syria in recent years.

Many diplomats here regarded the Hussein message, which was published as front-page news in Damascus, as a Syrian condition for normalizing relations.