Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has appealed to the IRA to help rebuild the Northern Ireland political process.
Mr Adams said text had been given to the IRA
In a direct call to the terror group, he asked it to "fully embrace and accept" democratic means.
Republicans are under pressure to end IRA activity after the £26.5m Northern Bank raid and the murder of Belfast man Robert McCartney in January.
Downing Street said the media statement was "significant" and hoped it was the way forward for republicanism.
"Obviously the key will be what the IRA does as a result, and it's on that that any final judgment must be made," said a spokesman.
The IRA had "kept every commitment made by its leadership", said Mr Adams.
The struggle had "reached a defining moment" and he appealed to members of the IRA to move forward.
He said the text of his statement had been given to the leadership of the IRA.
"For over 30 years, the IRA showed that the British government could not rule Ireland on its own terms. You asserted the legitimacy of the right of the people of this island to freedom and independence.
"Many of your comrades made the ultimate sacrifice. Your determination, selflessness and courage have brought that freedom struggle forward towards its attainment.
"That struggle can now be taken forward by other means. I say this with the authority of my office as president of Sinn Fein."
Mr Adams said that in the past he had defended the right of the IRA to engage in armed struggle.
"I did so because there was no alternative for those who would not bend the knee or turn a blind eye to oppression or for those who wanted a national republic.
"Now there is an alternative. I have clearly set out my view of what that alternative is. The way forward is by building political support for republican and democratic objectives across Ireland and by winning support for these goals internationally."
Sinn Fein has been under pressure and was recently snubbed in the US over claims of IRA criminality.
SDLP leader Mark Durkan said it appeared Mr Adams had begun to accept that there was no reason for the IRA to exist, but the statement may have been an attempt to ease the pressure on Sinn Fein.
"That's why it is action from the IRA that counts - not words from Sinn Fein," he added.
DUP leader Ian Paisley said his party would not negotiate with republicans as unionists no longer believed what Mr Adams had to say.
"The unionist population have proved him in the past to be an absolute deceiver and a liar and this is just another political stunt promoting himself as a democrat," he said.
Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble said Mr Adams' claim that republicans had kept to every commitment was not true.
"If republicans wish to be included in talks then they must rebuild their credibility by doing all the things they should have done and present themselves as a purely peaceful democratic movement with no private army," he said.
Shadow Northern Ireland spokesman David Liddington said people needed to see evidence of permanent change within the republican movement.
"Trust can only be built on actions, not just words," the Conservative spokesman said.
'Ongoing criminal activity'
Talks last year failed to restore devolution, which stalled amid claims of IRA intelligence gathering at Stormont in 2002.
Since then there have been claims that the IRA was involved in December's £26.5m Northern Bank raid.
The party has also been under pressure over the murder of Short Strand man Robert McCartney in January. His family have claimed IRA members were involved in the killing.
Senator Edward Kennedy refused to meet Mr Adams during the St Patrick's week celebrations because of the IRA's "ongoing criminal activity".