President Trump said he "deeply respects" countries in Africa this week after reports earlier in the month said he referred to nations on the continent as "shitholes."

Trump sent a letter earlier in the week to African leaders expressing his desire for "strong and respectful relationships" with African countries, it was reported on Saturday.

The letter follows allegations that Trump referred to African and other immigrants as being from "shithole countries" at a meeting with lawmakers on immigration policy earlier in January. The president denied making the remark, while lawmakers in attendance have given varying recollections on what he said. Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., claimed Trump used the vulgar term multiple times.

Trump said he "deeply respects" the African people and the continent's nations, according to the letter obtained by NBC News.

The letter was sent ahead of this weekend's African Union summit in Ethiopia. The African Union represents all countries on the continent on a range of diplomatic and multilateral issues. It has called for Trump to offer an explanation and apologize for the remarks.

Trump met with the new chairman of the African Union, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, on Friday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

"The two Presidents discussed the partnership between the United States and African nations on economic growth and improved security," the White House said.

"President Trump underscored the need to work together to fight terrorism and increase trade between the United States and Africa," it added.

Trump also congratulated Kagame on being made the new head of the African Union ahead of the summit this weekend.

The African Union had demanded an apology for Trump's remarks earlier in the month. However, the issue over Trump's reportedly offensive remark was not brought up publicly after Trump's meeting with the new chairman in Davos.

White House pool reports indicated that reporters had shouted questions, asking if the two discussed the shithole remarks. Neither Trump nor Kagame responded.