Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has denounced the independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan, and will not rule out a potential military action to stop efforts to usurp his country’s territory, Al-Jazeera reported.

The warning came as people in the Iraqi autonomous region voted on Monday in an independence referendum, amid rising tensions and international opposition.

Balloting took place in the disputed areas between the northern city of Erbil and the capital Baghdad, as well as the oil-rich province of Kirkuk, which is ethnically mixed.

“Our armed forces are on the borders with Iraq to do whatever it takes,” Erdogan said, adding that Turkey could block key oil exports of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) over the vote.

“We will never allow anyone or anything to go from Turkey to Iraq. This week we will adopt so many other measures. We will close the borders. Nothing will go across the borders.”

Erdogan said “irrespective of the result, we see this [referendum] as null and void and say it is illegitimate”. He also said Turkey was ready to take “all the steps” needed “on political, economic, trade and security fronts” and appeared not to rule out military action.

Last week the Turkish armed forces began a military drill in the region around the border town of Silopi, including 100 military vehicles, which continued with reinforcements this weekend.