The possible independence of Bougainville is the greatest challenge Papua New Guinea faces, the PNG Prime Minister James Marape says.
The sanctity of the union of PNG as one country was very important, Marape said, and the issue was a bigger than Covid-19, the economy or other challenges.
Marape said parliament will soon need to address the autonomous region's quest for independence.
It was expected that next week Marape would brief MPs on the outcome of inter-governmental talks on Bougainvillean independence last month in Wabag.
At the talks both governments agreed to a timetable for the transfer of many powers by 2023 with full independence following in 2027.
He said independence had to be ratified by the PNG parliament: "If we are to progress the independence of Bougainville, then the matter has to be addressed in the national parliament."
In July PNG Governor General Sir Bob Dadae warned that the issue of Bougainville's potential independence could cause the disintegration of PNG.
In response, Bougainville's Government said it would continue to work toward independence, and that the Bougainville Peace Agreement guaranteed the province's right to determine their future.
A non-binding referendum held in Bougainville in 2019 showed 97.7 percent of Bougainvilleans supported independence.