Kurds in Iraq on Monday morning began casting their vote in a referendum on independence.
Voting began at 8am local time and will end at 6pm. The results are expected to be announced in 72 hours.
The deputy prime minister, Qubad Talabani of the Kurdistan Regional Government was quoted by Rudaw as saying, "I congratulate the people of the Kurdistan Region. Today is a historical day."
"It is the beginning of a struggle today in which we hope after a talking process with Iraq, with our neighbors, friends and rivals, to be able to reach our nation's objectives, be able to fulfill the dream that grew with us since childhood."
"Today marks the first phase in a long-term process."
The Kurdish prime minister, Nechirvan Barzani stressed that secession was not intended as a threat to any other country, especially Turkey.
“We are not and will not threaten Turkey’s national security, and neither will we intervene in the Turkish affairs, not today, and neither in the future. We want to be a good neighbor,” Mr Barzani was quoted by Reuters as saying.