President Donald Trump sent a letter African leaders at their 30th African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to "reiterate the close partnership" between the US and African Union, an administration official confirmed to CNN Monday.
Earlier this month, Trump came under fire for remarks reportedly describing African nations as "shithole countries" during an immigration discussion with senators in the Oval Office. Trump has denied making the comments.
The remarks set off a wave of diplomatic uproar from foreign leaders and their citizens, with Rwanda's foreign ministry describing them as "demeaning and unnecessary." South Africa, Haiti, Senegal, Ghana and several others summoned top US diplomats in their nations over the remarks.
Despite this, the administration official said Trump "deeply respects" African states and Africa's citizens.
"The purpose of the letter was to reiterate the close partnership between the United States and African Union and highlight areas of continued mutual interest and was sent to coincide with the holding of the African Union summit this week," the official said, adding, "The President deeply respects African states and Africa's citizens, and is committed to strengthening the partnership between the United States, African Union, and member states."
The administration "(wants) to work with the African Union on a lot of issues," including economic cooperation, another US official told CNN, noting that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson "is going to share the message in March when he goes there for an extended visit."
Trump met with incoming African Union chairman, Rwanda President Paul Kagame, last week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. He touted his "great relationships" with Rwanda.
Kagame called it a "great honor" to meet Trump, thanking him for the administration's support of Rwanda and vowing future cooperation between the US and the African Union. However, Kagame did not respond to a reporter's shouted questions on whether the two spoke about Trump's comments.