A Kurdish man casts his vote at a polling station during the referendum vote in Erbil, Iraq, on Sept. 25, 2017. The Iraqi Kurds on Monday cast their votes in a referendum that will determine the independence of the Kurdish region and the disputed areas that are currently under de facto Kurdish control. Picture: Khalil Dawood/Xinhua.

Beirut - The Syrian government rejects the independence referendum organized by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq, Syria's foreign minister has said.

Voting started on Monday in northern Iraq despite intense international and regional pressure to call the vote off.

"We in Syria only recognise a united Iraq and reject any procedure that leads to the fragmentation of Iraq," Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said, as reported by Syrian state news agency SANA.

"This step is rejected and we do not recognise it and yesterday I informed the Iraqi foreign minister of this stance."

The Syrian government, which is regaining territory with Iranian and Russian military backing, also opposes steps taken by Syrian Kurds towards autonomy in northern Syria since the start of the country's civil war in 2011.

Kurdish-led regions in Syria held elections for community leaders on Friday, the first in a three-phase vote that will culminate in the election of a parliament and the establishment of a federal system of government.

Syrian Kurds insist independence is not their aim and they want to remain part of a decentralised Syria.