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The optics of these talks were important to everyone involved. This was the first get-together for the warring parties in more than two years and, more importantly, the first time Syrian officials and opposition leaders have sat across the table from each other

what does ''optics'' mean here?

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An "optic" is usually a device for viewing something. For example telescopes have "optics".

In this case, the "optics" of a situation is how the situation looks to people looking at it. In this case they are talking about a very tense political situation, where the appearance of events is almost more important than what actually happens.

Each side is going to be very concerned about how things look, which can sometimes lead to very silly demands from parties involved (e.g. symmetrical seating arrangements so no party looks like they are superior to another). All because the appearance or optics of a political negotiation are important.

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    I'll add that this is a very "trendy" word right now. Using optics in this sense is something I don't really remember until fairly recently, but now that usage seems to be spreading like wildfire. I hear it quite often nowadays. – J.R. Jan 27 '17 at 1:24

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