Iraqi Kurds cast ballots on Monday in Iraq's Kurdish region and disputed territories on whether to support independence from Baghdad in a historic but nonbinding vote that has raised regional tensions and fears of instability, the AP reports. More than 3 million people are expected to vote across the three provinces that make up the Kurdish autonomous region, as well as residents in disputed territories—areas claimed by both Baghdad and the Kurds, including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk— according to the Independent High Elections and Referendum Commission, the body overseeing the vote. "We are ready to pay any price for our independence," said Masoud Barzani, the Kurdish region's president.
The referendum is being carried out despite mounting opposition from Baghdad and the international community. The US, a key ally of Iraq's Kurds, has warned the vote will likely destabilize the region amid the fight with ISIS. The Iraqi central government has also come out strongly against the referendum, demanding on Sunday that all airports and border crossings in the Kurdish region be handed back to federal government control. In a televised address on Sunday night, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the referendum threatens "peaceful coexistence among Iraqis and is a danger to the region." Turkey's Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, called on the international community not to recognize the vote.