Ankara, 1 July 1999 (RFE/RL) - The first group of Turkish troops bound for Kosovo to take part in NATO's peacekeeping operations left a military base in Ankara today. The group is to travel by land, across Bulgaria and Macedonia. The other groups are to go either by train or by air. Greece has refused to allow the Turkish troops to cross its soil. Turkey has close religious and ethnic ties to Albanian Kosovars, stemming from some 500 years of forcible Ottoman rule over much of southeastern Europe, including Greece. This rule ended only at the start of this century. NATO has said that about 1,000 Turkish soldiers would eventually join the peacekeeping force.