Iraqis Kurds celebrate with the Kurdish flag in the streets of the northern city of Kirkuk on September 25, 2017 as they vote in a referendum on independence.
The non-binding vote, initiated by veteran Kurdish leader Massud Barzani, has angered not only Baghdad, following which Iraq's federal parliament demanded that troops be sent to disputed areas in the north controlled by the Kurds since 2003, but also neighbours Turkey and Iran who are concerned it could stoke separatist aspirations among their own sizeable Kurdish minorities. / AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE        (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images
Iraqis Kurds celebrate with the Kurdish flag in the streets of the northern city of Kirkuk on September 25, 2017 as they vote in a referendum on independence. The non-binding vote, initiated by veteran Kurdish leader Massud Barzani, has angered not only Baghdad, following which Iraq's federal parliament demanded that troops be sent to disputed areas in the north controlled by the Kurds since 2003, but also neighbours Turkey and Iran who are concerned it could stoke separatist aspirations among their own sizeable Kurdish minorities. / AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:22
92% support Kurdish referendum
Fred Pleitgen/CNN
Now playing
03:21
US planes spy on ISIS from edge of space
inside mosuls liberated neighborhoods black pkg_00000000.jpg
inside mosuls liberated neighborhoods black pkg_00000000.jpg
Now playing
02:51
Inside liberated Mosul neighborhoods
Members of the Iraqi forces watch Donald Trump giving a speech after he won the US president elections in the village of Arbid on the southern outskirts of Mosul on November 9, 2016, as they rest in a house during the ongoing military operation to retake Mosul from the Islamic State (IS) group.
AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Members of the Iraqi forces watch Donald Trump giving a speech after he won the US president elections in the village of Arbid on the southern outskirts of Mosul on November 9, 2016, as they rest in a house during the ongoing military operation to retake Mosul from the Islamic State (IS) group.
Now playing
02:15
How will Trump handle Iraq?
kurdistan 24
Now playing
02:16
ISIS ambush in Kirkuk
google maps
Now playing
02:17
US service member killed in action in northern Iraq
isis drone use mosul nick paton walsh dnt_00001722.jpg
isis drone use mosul nick paton walsh dnt_00001722.jpg
Now playing
02:43
ISIS using drones in battle for Mosul
iraq forces mosul michael holmes lkv_00015709.jpg
iraq forces mosul michael holmes lkv_00015709.jpg
Now playing
03:27
Iraqi-led forces push into ISIS territory
mosul most intense day fighting damon dnt _00004210.jpg
mosul most intense day fighting damon dnt _00004210.jpg
Now playing
02:44
Mosul: Most intense day of fighting
 Iraqi Troops Mosul damon lkl_00003730.jpg
Iraqi Troops Mosul damon lkl_00003730.jpg
Now playing
01:53
Iraqi troops enter Christian town on outskirts of Mosul
Iraqi refugees debunk ISIS' portrayal of Mosul
CNN
Iraqi refugees debunk ISIS' portrayal of Mosul
Now playing
02:12
Iraqi refugees debunk ISIS' portrayal of Mosul
Iraq Mosul ISIS tunnels Damon lkl _00020013.jpg
Iraq Mosul ISIS tunnels Damon lkl _00020013.jpg
Now playing
02:24
Exploring ISIS tunnels near Mosul
battle for mosul paton walsh pkg_00023629.jpg
battle for mosul paton walsh pkg_00023629.jpg
Now playing
01:16
Dramatic moments from the battle for Mosul
(CNN) —  

Iraqi Kurds have voted overwhelmingly in favor of declaring independence from Iraq in a historic and controversial referendum that could have wide-ranging implications for the Middle East.

More than 92% of the roughly 3 million people who cast valid ballots on Monday voted “yes” to independence, according to official results announced by the Kurdish electoral commission on Wednesday.

The outcome represents a step towards independence for the semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq and areas it claims, and puts Kurdish authorities on a collision course with their counterparts in Baghdad.

The poll took place despite vehement opposition from the Iraqi government, which described it as unconstitutional and has authorized use of force against Iraqi Kurdistan.

The Kurdistan Regional Government, however, says the referendum will give it a mandate for talks to secede from Iraq, although Baghdad has already ruled out such talks.

01:40 - Source: CNN
Who are the Kurds?

On Wednesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called for the referendum to be annulled and for the KRG to engage in dialogue as guided by the constitution. His comments come a day after he ordered the Kurds to yield control of their airports to the central government by Friday.

Several international flight operators have announced plans to cease flights to the region on Friday, including Egypt Air and Royal Jordanian Airlines. Iran closed its airspace on Sunday.

Nearly all neighboring regional powers objected to the referendum, warning that independence could further destabilize the region.

On Tuesday, KRG President Masoud Barzani hailed the preliminary results and urged the world to “respect the will of the people of Kurdistan.”

“Let’s engage in a serious dialogue and become good neighbors,” Barzani said during a televised speech.

Barzani appears at a pro-independence rally in Irbil on Friday.
Kyodo/AP
Barzani appears at a pro-independence rally in Irbil on Friday.

The vote was held across the autonomous region and in disputed territories including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, a flashpoint city claimed by both sides.

It comes as Kurdish forces play an instrumental role in the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. In helping to eliminate the terror group, Kurdish leaders appear to have expected the backing of the international community in pursuing nationalist aspirations.

But the referendum has received little support outside northern Iraq.

Both Iran and Turkey have sizable Kurdish minorities and fear the ballot might galvanize independence movements in their countries.

The United States, United Kingdom and the United Nations denounced the vote amid concerns that it could detract from the campaign against ISIS.

As voters cast their ballots Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the referendum as “illegal” and suggested Turkey could cut off oil exports from northern Iraq, depriving the KRG of a key source of revenue.

On Wednesday night, after the announcement of the voting results, Irbil’s main square was quiet – a sharp contrast to the revelry on the streets the night of the vote.

“I’m afraid of the situation,” said Ahmad Tayeb, 30, an Arab from Anbar who now lives in Irbil. “As Arabs, we’re worried that clashes in Kirkuk will lead to revenge on us here.”

Bewyar Abdullah, 28, a peshmerga fighter who was injured during war on Isis in Mosul, said he was at the square with friends. They expected large gatherings and fanfare but found none.

“Actually, I want to be split from the Arabs … For that reason I voted to break away from them,” he said. “We don’t understand why there are no celebrations.”

Israel is the only country in the region that supported the vote, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu endorsing what he described as “the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to achieve their own state.”

European Union leaders issued a statement on Wednesday calling on all parties involved to “exercise calm and restraint” and to resolve their issues through peaceful dialogue.

Numbering 30 million, Kurds make up a sizable minority in a number of Middle Eastern countries, including Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey.

Despite nearly a century of Kurdish nationalist movements in various countries, the Kurds have never had a nation of their own.

Tamara Qiblawi reported and wrote from Irbil; Muwafaq Mohammed contributed to this report from Irbil. CNN’s Mohammed Tawfeeq and journalist Bustan Amedi contributed to this report from Atlanta; Lauren Said-Moorhouse and James Masters wrote from London.