WASHINGTON - Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan moved towards mending their rift at a high stakes meeting in Washington on Thursday, but the Congressman stopped short of endorsing the controversial real-estate tycoon.
The duo released a joint statement after their face-to-face laying out some common goals but also noting that it was a first step.
"The United States cannot afford another four years of the Obama White House, which is what Hillary Clinton represents. That is why it’s critical that Republicans unite around our shared principles, advance a conservative agenda, and do all we can to win this fall,” said the statement by what are now among the two most powerful Republicans in the country.
They added: “While we were honest about our differences, we recognise that there are also many important areas of common ground.
"We will be having additional discussions, but remain confident there’s a great opportunity to unify our party and win this fall, and we are totally committed to working together to achieve that goal.”
The split between Mr Ryan and Mr Trump, which crystallised last week when the House Speaker said he was not ready to endorse the businessman, had become a major headache for the party and the candidate as it laid bare the deep divisions Mr Trump’s candidacy had created.
The two had also clashed recently on a number of issues, which included Trump surrogate Sarah Palin pledging to work against the House Speaker in his own re-election campaign.
Mr Ryan – who was the vice presidential candidate in 2012 – was thus not expected to announce his support for Mr Trump after the meeting and indeed they signalled a need for more discussions.
“This was our first meeting, but it was a very positive step toward unification,” the joint statement said.
Mr Ryan later told reporters that he was “very encouraged” by what he heard from Mr Trump.
“This is a process, it takes a little time. You don’t put it together in 45 minutes… It’s very important that we don’t fake unifying, we don’t pretend unification, that we truly actually unify so that we are full strength in the fall.”
The Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman Reince Priebus, who sat in on the meeting, gave a similar assessment on Twitter, writing that the meeting was “great” and that it was a step towards party unity.
The meeting on Thursday morning took place at the RNC headquarters in Washington.
Mr Trump who arrived in the capital by helicopter entered the building through the back entrance to avoid the cluster of protesters that had gathered in front of the building.
He will spend the day reaching out to other Congressional leaders as he pushes to try and heal wounds created by the divisive primary.
After the meeting with the House Speaker, he separately met Republican leaders of the House of Representatives and the Senate.