The ministers' meeting was aimed at ironing out differences ahead of an EU-Russia summit in Nice, southern France, on Friday.

"We will certainly find a date after the summit," Ferrero-Waldner said.

Opposition

Lithuania and Poland have voiced constant opposition to the idea, saying that Moscow has not complied with the terms of a peace deal which ended the short war in August.

While Russia has pulled its troops out of the heart of Georgia it still has several thousand massed in South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia, both of which Moscow has recognised as independent states.

"Lithuania's position has not changed," a Lithuanian diplomat confirmed after the talks.

Poland, however, dropped its objections.

The new EU-Russia pact will cover political, economic and trade relations between Europe and its major energy supplier.

At present EU-Russian relations are governed by a 1997 partnership and co-operation agreement reached when a much weaker Russia was emerging from the break-up of the old Soviet Union.

The EU wants to include energy and security issues in the new pact.