donald trump.jpg
Photograph: EPA/JUSTIN LANE

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said Thursday following a closely watched meeting that it is necessary to unite in order to defeat Democrats in the November general election.

Amid a rift in the Republican party over its presumptive presidential nominee, Trump headed to Washington for a series of meetings designed to woo the party leaders he has been quick to attack on the campaign trail.

In a joint statement, the two called the meeting "a very positive step toward unification."

"The United States cannot afford another four years of the Obama White House, which is what Hillary Clinton represents," Trump and Ryan said.

"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."

Trump and Ryan had a "great conversation" and were "honest about our few differences" while recognizing "important areas of common ground," the statement said.

Ryan later described the meeting as "encouraging," but stressed that it was only the start of an effort to unify the party after a long, bitter primary campaign.

Ryan, the top Republican in Congress, sought to downplay stark policy differences between himself and Trump on issues such as health care reform for the elderly and taxes, instead pointing to shared core principles within the Republican Party.

"This is a process, we just began this process," said Ryan, who last week said he could not yet endorse the candidate and again stopped short of doing so despite stressing the need for party unity.

Ryan pointed to Trump's success in bringing new voters to the party and said Republicans must work to add more voters without losing existing supporters.

Republican chairman Reince Preibus, who has called on the party to unify, wrote on Twitter that the meeting "was a very positive step toward party unity."

Ahead of Thursday's meeting, Ryan had said it would not be wise to "pretend we're unified as a party" without addressing the underlying issues.

Trump's caustic style and deviation from traditional party orthodoxy on issues such as trade and taxes has splintered the Republicans, and it remains unclear whether he will be able to unify the party.

Trump has indicated little willingness to back down from his fiery campaign rhetoric.

Ryan, who was the party's vice presidential candidate alongside Mitt Romney four years ago, has sought to convey an image as an affable policy-focused politician.

Romney has also been outspoken against Trump and went after him Wednesday for refusing to release his tax returns.

Ryan has expressed reservations about many of Trump's positions, but must also worry about Republicans maintaining control of Congress.

The elections, now in less than six months, will see voters electing all 435 members of the House and one-third of the Senate. Less obviously, many states will hold elections for the governors and state legislators who will eventually decide the House district maps into the next decade.

Some Republicans fear that Trump's nationalistic, nativist and protectionist leanings could sap the enthusiasm of the Republican base while spurring minority turnout for Democrats in key states.

Related stories

Republican Party faces coming "Trumpocalypse"

Paul Ryan vows Republicans in Congress will unite behind Trump

Trump claims unity amid signs of division in campaign

Republicans keep control of US Congress

Latest news

Serbia's EU negotiator says minority rights neglected

The head of the Serbia's European Union accession negotiation team, Tanja Miscevic, said in Novi Sad on Wednesday that minority rights had been neglected for many years and added that positive results in that regard cannot be achieved over night, the Beta news agency has reported. 

Scientists: Nearby star's 7 rocky planets are "best bet" for life

New analysis of telescope data shows a dwarf star just 40 light years from Earth has at least seven apparently rocky planets with potential to harbour water, an international team of scientists announced Wednesday.

Croatian PM receives EIB Vice-President

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic met on Wednesday with European Investment Bank (EIB) Vice-President Dario Scannapieco for talks on the bank's contribution to a new investment cycle in Croatia and its support to the Croatian government to implement key projects, a press release from the government's office said.

Bomb explodes outside police officer's home in Northern Ireland

A bomb exploded outside a police officer's home in Northern Ireland on Wednesday but there were no immediate reports of casualties.

Denmark to charge man with blasphemy over burning Koran

Danish prosecutors said Wednesday they have opened a rare blasphemy case against a man who videotaped himself burning a copy of the Koran.

South Africa to raise taxes for the wealthiest

South Africa will raise the income tax rate for the country's wealthiest to 45 per cent from 41 per cent, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan announced Wednesday.

Reformist Macron wins support of key centrist leader for French vote

France's reformist presidential hopeful, Emmanuel Macron, got a boost on Wednesday when he picked up the support of a party leader whose centrist constituency played a pivotal role in the last two presidential elections.

Amnesty International warns of nationalist rhetoric and hate speech in Croatia

Croatia continues to have problems with discrimination against ethnic minorities and with freedom of the media, while heightened nationalist rhetoric and hate speech during election time contributed to growing ethnic intolerance and insecurity in the country, global human rights watchdog Amnesty International said in its annual report on the state of human rights in the world in 2016/2017.

Official assigned to Wilders' security team held by Dutch police

A security official assigned to protect Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders is being held by police on suspicion of passing along classified information about the lawmaker to a Dutch-Moroccan crime gang.

100th anniversary of rescuing starving children marked

A special ceremony was held in Zagreb's Croatian National Theatre on Wednesday to mark the 100th anniversary of one of the greatest humanitarian undertakings in the history of the Croatian people which saved children in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina from famine in the last two years of World War I.

Italy's 'Red Thing' could make impact in election debut, polls show

Two polls conducted for RAI public broadcaster released Wednesday showed a new entity that split from Italy's ruling Democratic Party

Council: Nixing grants to "Novosti" would cause far-reaching implications

The Council for National Minorities, a state-level autonomous umbrella organisation for all ethnic minorities in Croatia, has stated that the cancellation of financial grants to the "Novosti", a newspaper of the ethnic Serb minority, would produce far-reaching implications and stir criticism for reduction of free speech and of freedom of expression of the most numerous ethnic minority.