WASHINGTON - Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan held their much-awaited meeting Thursday, describing it as a "positive step" toward unifying the Republican Party.

The two men issued a joint statement calling for Republicans to "unite around our shared principles, advance a conservative agenda and do all we can to win this fall."

"With that focus, we had a great conversation this morning. While we were honest about our few differences, we recognize 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," Trump and Ryan said.

"This was our first meeting, but it was a very positive step toward unification.”

Despite the positive tone of the statement, Ryan did not say he now supports Trump as the party’s nominee.

Party leaders are normally eager to rally around a presidential nominee to combine forces for the battle leading up to November's general election. But Ryan has withheld his endorsement of Trump out of concern over the billionaire businessman's incendiary tone and policy ideas, which run counter to longtime Republican doctrine.

Ryan has opposed Trump's proposals to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States, deport 11 million illegal immigrants and impose protectionist trade policies.

Trump started his day on Capitol Hill at the headquarters of the Republican National Committee, where he met with Speaker Ryan and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus.Priebus tweeted about the first meeting after its conclusion, calling the visit a "positive step" in uniting the party.

The Republican presidential candidate then met with Ryan for a second time. The meeting included members of the House Republican leadership team.Trump’s visit to Washington brings him face-to-face this morning with Ryan, the nation’s top Republican elected official who has yet to offer his support for the real estate mogul’s candidacy.

The two men have only met one other time, crossing paths backstage at a 2012 fundraising event for the presidential campaign of Mitt Romney, who is now one of the most vocal critics of Trump’s run for the White House.

Trump and Ryan also spoke on the phone briefly earlier this year about the House Republican election-year agenda, a conversation both men described as positive.

Trump will meet next with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Republican Senate leadership team at the National Republican Senatorial Committee offices.

Anti-Trump and pro-Trump protesters gathered outside of the RNC during Trump's meetings with Speaker Ryan.